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Welcome Hall Mission, McGill to expand dental services for most vulnerable

Click to play video: 'Welcome Hall Mission, McGill to expand dental services for most vulnerable' Welcome Hall Mission, McGill to expand dental services for most vulnerable
WATCH: A Montreal community-based dental clinic providing care for lower-income patients will soon be able to serve more vulnerable Montrealers. – May 9, 2022

A Montreal community dental clinic providing care for lower-income patients is about to be expanded.

The Jim Lund dental clinic, named after a former dean of McGill University’s Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, will be doubled in size and capacity. Opened in 2011, it is housed at the Welcome Hall Mission and is a partnership between that organization and McGill’s dental faculty. The clinic also serves as a teaching facility for fourth-year McGill dentistry students.

Read more: Quebec to provide dental coverage for children with cancer

It provides dental services for people who can’t afford them.

“We usually do between 1,700 and 2,000 dental procedures per year,” explained Sam Watts, CEO and executive director of the mission. “So an awful lot of procedures.”

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All for free.

Those who work at the clinic stress that dental health for the lower-income population, already at greater health risk, is vital.

“(It means) they’re at less risk of getting bodily diseases later on in life,” explained Dr. Ira Hoffman, one of three attending dentists and a member of McGill’s dentistry faculty.

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According to Watts, nearly all the patients are clients of the mission or referrals from other community organizations. He says the need is growing and correlates with the rise in poverty.

“Twenty-seven per cent of Quebecers don’t have access to regular basic health care for their teeth,” he noted, “and so that’s why we’re deciding to expand it.”

“At the moment our estimate is about $800,000 to $1 million,” explained Dr. Elham Emami, Dean of McGill University dentistry faculty.

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The clinic is funded by McGill and Welcome Hall from donations, with almost no government money, said Watts.

“Our government needs to step up and start funding some of these kinds of services,” he stated.

Read more: Dental care program for kids under 12 will roll out by end of year: Budget 2022

In 2021 the Quebec health ministry launched pilot projects to fund five dental clinics in the province that serve those with lower income.

Watts said the Jim Lund clinic, one of two in Montreal, received $153,000.

“We opened a Saturday clinic to reduce the waiting lists,” said Emami.

Watts said now they’re waiting to see what the next step is.

Currently, public care covers only kids under 10, long-term care home residents and people on social assistance.

“Is the government ready to step in now and say dental care for the disadvantaged should be part of our regular health care?” Watts wondered.

He hopes the expansion helps to demonstrate that there is a need.

Officials at McGill and Welcome Hall expect the project will be complete by early next year.

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