For dental hygienist Tayyaba Fiaz and about 50 other volunteers, giving back means holding a free oral hygiene clinic at John Abbott College for people who have limited access to such services.
“We have 15 students and 34 registered dental hygienists and the reception staff,” said Fiaz, Quebec director for Gift From the Heart, a Canadian a charity which runs the clinics and helps vulnerable populations gain access to dental care.
Thirty-six patients were treated at the school’s dental hygiene clinic Saturday.
Gift From the heart partnered with the college for the initiative.
“It is good for the students to learn to give back to the community,” Francine Trudeau, the programme’s co-chair told Global News.
The main goal though, according to Fiaz, was to help.
She pointed out that too many many people can’t afford simple hygiene treatment, which would have cost the patients $200 each.
“I had to refuse so many people because I did not have enough capacity to take care of them today,” she said.
The consequences of inadequate dental care can be dire since bacteria in the mouth affects the rest of the body, the hygienists pointed out.
“Any inflammatory diseases are worse when oral health is poor,” explained Laura Iorio, vice-president of operations for Gift From the Heart. “There are people out in our communities that just can’t afford to get care and they are showing up in our emergency rooms.”
One of the patients, schoolteacher teacher Robin Zinman, who said she no longer has dental insurance through her employer, believes dental coverage should be universal.
She argued that it’s cheaper to have everyone insured from childhood.
“You’re going to have a big bill at the end of it,” she reasoned. “Because you’re going to have a lot of people with no teeth and big problems.”
After years of pressure, the governing federal Liberals, with the federal NDP, will make dental care more accessible for uninsured households making less than $90,000.
Staring Dec. 1, children under 12 will be eligible.
“Then next year the program will be expanded,” explained federal Liberal MP for Lac-Saint-Louis, Francis Scarpaleggia. “It will be offered to seniors and Canadians with disabilities, and then the rest of the population the third year.”
Until that happens Fiaz and her volunteers plan to keep filling the gap.