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Free dental program expands for Metro Vancouver low-income and homeless people

When it's a struggle just to afford the necessities of life dental care is often neglected. That's why the Union Gospel Mission is expanding a program to provide oral healthcare to those well beyond the downtown east side. Catherine Urquhart shows us why it's a game-changer for the clients they serve.

For close to a decade, the Community Engaged Learning Program has been providing dental care to thousands of people who are low income or homeless in Metro Vancouver.

Now the program, which is a partnership between the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry, is expanding.

“The thing that’s new this year is [dental hygiene] students are doing an outreach to people in New Westminster,” UGM’s Rachael Allen said.

READ MORE: Premier John Horgan opens door to including dental coverage within B.C.’s health care system

Dwight Harvey was among those in the dentist’s chair on Wednesday, which was set up at a hall in Surrey.

“I needed to do this three years ago,” he said about his check-up. “This is huge.”

Leeann Donnelly, an associate professor with UBC’s Faculty of Dentistry, oversees the program.

READ MORE: Mental health, stigma hindering people from seeking support: UGM

“For some there can be more dental disease, gum disease or cavities,” Donnelly said. “Sometimes more oral lesions, but everyone could have these problems.”

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Harvey’s check-up turned out to be pain-free and there were no major issues, a relief for the New Westminster resident.

He said he’s grateful to have benefited from the expanding program, as it continues to assist those in need.

Vulnerable B.C. children will have quicker access to dental surgery
Vulnerable B.C. children will have quicker access to dental surgery