Community Vitality grant helps to make affordable dental care clinic a reality in London

Nov. 16, 2018

70,000 people are living in poverty in the London community. Approximately 100 Londoners receive dental care in our emergency rooms every month, because they can’t afford a dentist. With dental coverage not included with OHIP, the cost of going to a dentist is too high for many individuals and families.

The London Community Dental Alliance wants to make affordable dental care a reality in our community with their Low-cost Dental Clinic. Thanks to a Community Vitality grant of $230,000 from London Community Foundation (LCF), they’ll be able to provide dental care for people from all walks of life, at a low-cost.

The project is inspired by the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Dental Outreach Community Service (DOCS).  With DOCS running for 10 years, the need for affordable dentistry is clear. The challenge, Ken Wright, a clinical adjunct professor at Schulich, tells us is that DOCS is limited in hours of service and locations to provide service, meaning they simply cannot meet the demand for service.

With the Dental Alliance, the clinic will be in a permanent location - the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre. This clinic will run five days a week, from 9 AM - 5 PM. It’s a perfect fit, really, with the Glen Cairn neighbourhood previously being highlighted as a high-need neighbourhood for affordable dental care.

“What we've done is bring together an alliance of stakeholders really. In other words, the Schulich School of Dentistry is interested in being able to meet this need. Fanshawe Community College Oral program is interested in it. The London and District Dental Society has come aboard, and the London Intercommunity Health Center, which is one of the largest health centers in London, believes in this project, along with three or four other social agencies.” - Dr. Ken Wright, DOCS Founder, Member at Large

This dental clinic is vital to the health of our community. Many of the individuals turning to emergency departments for care have dental problems, abscesses, and so forth because they don't have a dentist or they can't afford to go to a dentist.  This rarely treats the problem, but is more often a band-aid solution. These people don't have the money to be able to afford dental care that most people can. Poor oral health can lead to other problems in the body like pulmonary issues, abscesses, ulcers, and even precancerous conditions.

“We have a unique situation in London where we have a dental school. The students love it. They get exposure to sort of a level in our society that normally don't go to a dentist, can't afford to go to a dentist. So it teaches them that there's another segment that requires help and it requires treatment. One of the things that we want to develop in the students is not, you know, to be capable dentists but is to develop a sense of empathy and that is important.” - Dr. Ken Wright

The Dental Alliance revenues from those that can pay a small portion (about a quarter or a third of the normal fee) of the service fee will help toward the service cost of those that cannot. In order to keep costs low, grants and funding, like that from LCF and the Community Vitality grant, play an integral role in purchasing equipment and materials, allowing the Dental Alliance to begin treatment for patients with minimal debt and/or loan payments.

“A lot of dentists are quite willing to help , but some of them are overloaded with these patients, and they really don't even cover the costs of service. We're actually stepping in and saying OK, we're in fact a non-profit organization, so we can utilize the funds there and look after these patients.” - Ken Wright

This is about affordability. This is about equality. This is about belonging. That's one of the beauties of having a location right in Glen Cairn. With the clinic being right within a community, it's more comforting for many individuals to come and be treated rather than going to a dental office where they might worry about cost or how they might be treated.

Congratulations, to the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre and all their community partners! A much-needed initiative in our community, we can’t wait to see the lasting impact they’ll have on London and Middlesex. Thank you, to our fabulous donors that contribute to our Smart and Caring Community Fund - this wouldn’t be possible without you!