Community Dental Access Centre volunteer hygienist Sue Lighthall gets ready to do an examination for a client. The clinic provides dental services for low-income families and individuals who qualify.

Community Dental Access Centre volunteer hygienist Sue Lighthall gets ready to do an examination for a client. The clinic provides dental services for low-income families and individuals who qualify.

Opening doors to dental care

The Community Dental Access Centre has opened its doors to provide both emergency dental care and preventative care

All some people want for Christmas is for their teeth to stop hurting. The Community Dental Access Centre has been helping people of all ages with emergency dental care for several years and the clinic has been seeing patients since the end of September, working through a waiting list that at one time had more than 500 people who needed help with some or all of the cost of dental care.

The Dental Access Program started in 2002 with a small group of concerned dental health professionals, including Laine Lowe and Dominique Bedard, as well as other community members, to help people in urgent need of dental care. By 2006, the committee realized that there was a need for a broader range of services, including preventive care for children and adults. The centre works with the Integrated Advisory Committee representing other community agencies which make their clients aware of the services.

“There are so many people who don’t get the opportunity to get dental care. The mouth is just as important as any other part of the body,” said Sue Lighthall, a dental hygienist who volunteers at the clinic.

The clinic also has one staff dentist, Dr. Cindy Gammie Hansen, and several dentists and hygienists who volunteer, as well as volunteers who help with the administrative work. The board of directors is made up of volunteers.

Much of the equipment, supplies and labour and computer software to get the space set up as a dental office was donated.

“People have been so appreciative of what we do. They say things like, ‘You don’t know what this means to me.’ Everyone is so thankful,” said executive director Terri Jones.

The clinic is presently open only two days a week but there are hopes that with more volunteer dentists and more procedures done, there will be more funding and more people can be helped. The clinic is funded by grants, donations, by clients’ insurance, if any, and by whatever they are able to pay themselves.

From March 2011 to April 2012, the Community Dental Access Centre served 136 clients  for a total value of service of just over $100,000. Of this amount, 35 per cent was pro bono work by dentists, 26 per cent was paid by the centre, 24 per cent was paid by insurance, and 15 per cent was paid by the clients. These percentages will likely change as treatment is now being done at the clinic.

The Angel Fund is for people who cannot afford even the reduced rates but need emergency care and treatment. This is separate from clinic operational funds and donations are always appreciated. People are encouraged to give their time, talents or monetary donations to the program by contributing to operational funds, the Angel Fund, or volunteering.

“Our services are not free but greatly reduced, depending on income level, so that we can help as many people as possible with the resources we have. We will become as self sufficient as possible,” said Jones. She said the board members know what it is like to need dental care, with some either having been very sick after not having an infection cared for or knowing someone who has had serious health effects from lack of dental care.

“I think there are many people who don’t understand the need and how serious it is to leave dental care unattended. Dental infections can affect the heart and pancreas and all other parts of the body. We want people to get help before things get dangerous,” said Jones.

Community Dental Access Centre services include preventive and restorative care, hygiene treatment, urgent care treatment, denture/partial program, and cancer screening. Programs include the Tobacco Cessation Program, the Small Smiles Program (one to two years with the first dental check- up free), and the Kidz Cavity Prevention Club (ages two to 12 years). For more information, call 778-475-7779 or e-mail

The community can help by dropping by for the Christmas Sale and Loonie Drive Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the centre at 3107 C- 31st Ave (one block west of the bus station). Donations can be made online at