People in Cranbrook with little to no income and no health benefits will soon be able to access free dental services at the Salvation Army.
This September, the church is opening a dental clinic in its existing building on Slater Road.
Those who aren’t able to pay for dental work will be able to visit the clinic for pain control procedures such as tooth extraction and root canal, infection control, and hygienist services. The clinic is not set up to provide fillings.
“Based on what we know from people we deal with on a regular basis, oral health is pretty significant,” said the Salvation Army’s Captain Kirk Green.
Often people will come to the Salvation Army seeking help paying for things like hydro bills and rent, but won’t mention dental problems, pointed out Nancy Zier, community ministry worker.
“The last thing on their list is this thumping pain in their mouth,” she said.
For that reason, it’s hard for the Salvation Army to say how great the need is for the clinic. But Capt. Green estimated the clinic will see 360 patients in its first year.
The clinic will be entirely run by volunteers. Dr. Astarte “Dale” Sellars, a semi-retired dentist who works out of Cranbrook Dental Centre, will volunteer her time, as will a dental hygienist and a certified assistant.
At first, the clinic will be open 15 hours a month, which will work out to be a couple of afternoons and an evening each week.
Columbia Basin Trust has provided a $16,500 grant to the Salvation Army to cover start-up costs, but they have been lucky enough to have some equipment donated by a retired dentist.
Patients for the dental clinic will first meet with Salvation Army staff, who will ensure the patient has no other means to receive dental care. Then an appointment will be scheduled.
The only money the clinic will accept is from government social assistance. For instance, if a patient is eligible to have part of the dental work paid for by the government, the clinic will accept that funding, but it will not bill the patient for the remainder.
The working poor who are not eligible for social assistance and do not have health benefits will be able to use the clinic free of charge.
Those with health benefits are not eligible to use the clinic because it is not set up to make claims to health care providers.
At first, the modest clinic will consist of one chair in a room at the Salvation Army.
However, Capt. Green hopes that if the B.C. government provides funding for a new homeless shelter planned for Cranbrook, the clinic will move into that new location.
The hours may be expanded if more dental professionals come forward to donate their time.
The clinic will open at the end of September. Starting September 1, people who think they might benefit from the clinic’s services can call the Salvation Army at 250-426-3612.
Any licensed dental professionals who are interested in getting involved are also encouraged to get in touch.