Meet Esther the Tooth Fairy (left) and Dominique Berard

Meet Esther the Tooth Fairy (left) and Dominique Berard

A rally to save smiles

The Smile Saver Support Rally is a chance for everyone to show that the community wants the centre whether they will personally use it or not.

“We want people to be aware of the need in the community. We don’t want people walking around in pain and poor health because of lack of dental care, which is what is happening now. The Downtown Primary Care Centre gets up to three calls a day from low-income people who need help,” said Laine Lowe, community dental hygienist and past member of the Community Dental Access Committee.

In the next step towards opening a dental centre for low-income people of all ages, the committee has now become The Community Dental Access (North Okanagan) Society, with president Dominique Berard and a board of directors.

A downtown site has been secured and renovations can begin once the society has raised the necessary funds.

“Our renovation and capital equipment  budget is $390,000 and all we need to raise now is $70,000 in cash donations,” said Lesly McMillan, project co-manager with Chris Turner. “We have 90 per cent of the equipment and the blueprints for the renovations. We received less grants than we had hoped, so we have to do some more fundraising. We’re so close.

“There has been an increase in awareness of the lack of dental care and we want people out to the Smile Saver Support Rally to show there is a need.”

She cited Health Canada Statistics that show that 47 per cent of low-income Canadians have an unmet dental health need as compared to 26 per cent of the high income group. In 2008, 16,990 adults in the North Okanagan filed a tax return indicating a total income of less than $15,000 per year; in September 2009, 4.8 per cent of North Okanagan residents were unemployed compared to 3.0 per cent of B.C. residents as a whole.

Low-income Canadians do without dental care because of the cost, which leaves them more likely to have dental problems and poor oral health which increases the risk of having heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases. Dental decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children, five times more prevalent than asthma and seven times more prevalent than hay fever.

“If we could open the Community Dental Access Centre tomorrow, we would save the health care system money,” said McMillan. “The centre will see only low-income people at a reduced cost and no one will be turned away. The centre will also provide preventive care for people of all ages.”

She added that dental cleanings help people with diabetes control their conditions by controlling gum disease. The centre will also offer smoking cessation programs, as tobacco use has a huge impact on oral health.

Organizers of the Smile Saver Support Rally invite everyone to drop by April 14 at noon at Cenotaph Park. There will be a chance to meet the Tooth Fairy, learn more about the Community Dental Access Centre, enter a draw for a deluxe rechargable electric toothbrush, put names on a waiting list for the centre when it opens, and/or make donations of any amount.

For more information or to make a donation call McMillan at 250-308-7163.