Students offer dental care

(Edmonton) Hundreds of Edmontonians who can’t afford dental care opened wide for University of Alberta dentistry and dental hygiene students Nov. 22.

More than 100 patients came through the on-campus clinic as part of the Open Wide clinic, which runs twice a year. It is a student-run clinic held in November and then again in March. It gives students a chance to work on their clinical skills and those with difficulty accessing dental care can get needed dental work for free.

“Access to care is one of the biggest concerns in the profession,” said Steve Patterson, clinical professor in the Department of Dentistry. “A recent Canadian health-measures survey indicated that close to 20 per cent of Canadians forego dental treatment because of cost. That’s about one in five adults, for example. A lot of people find it difficult to find care so typically this is something that is looked for and is recognized for them as a valuable service.”

The patients are identified through collaboration between the School of Dentistry and local community groups, and invitations to the clinic are sent to potential patients.

Ryan Savage is one of those patients. He just moved from British Columbia with his family and until he finds a job, he has no health coverage. He says he is grateful for this service.

“I still can’t believe it’s actually free,” said Savage. “Dental work isn’t something that I can sit back and wait until I get the coverage for so it’s so unbelievable I can get this service.” He came in for a cleaning and some fillings.

Fourth-year dental students and senior dental hygiene students look after the patients in November, unlike at March’s clinic, when third-year dental students will also see patients.

Tammy Zimmer, in her final year of the dentistry program, is taking part in her second Open Wide clinic.

“It’s been a nice experience,” said Zimmer. “It’s quite an opportunity for all of us to be able to use the skills that we’ve gained in school to help people. We’re very fortunate to be involved in a program like this.”