Magic Smiles: An Innovative Project Bringing Dental Service to Those Most in Need

Jun. 17, 2010

It’s a bit of magic. We go into an empty room and an hour later we’ve got four or five dental chairs with people operating. Three hours later, we take it down and we’re gone again!”

Dr. Ken Wright is justifiably proud of the innovative Dental Outreach Community Services (DOCS) program, launched in September 2008.

 The idea came to him when he read about a similar program in Montreal. Although the Dentistry School at Western offers care for a nominal fee to new Canadians, many were not making the trek to the on-campus clinic. Dr. Wright saw an opportunity to take the services to where they were needed most.  With help from the Foundation and several other local organizations, he purchased four portable dental units. Three more will be in use by September 2009, when Wright also hopes to add a portable X-ray machine. The chairs, tables and lights all fold up into suitcases for easy moving.

Clinics are held every two weeks, rotating through three locations, the Northwest Resource Centre, the Boys and Girls Club, and Glen Cairn Community Centre. London-area dentists provide the services on a volunteer basis, with dentistry students assisting them. Next year the program will become a fourth-year elective for the students. The Dental Hygiene program at Fanshawe is also sending volunteers and raised money to buy one of the new units. Patients who need more complex treatment are scheduled during special Saturday sessions at the on-campus clinic.

“The response from patients is incredible,” says Dr. Wright. “They’re so thankful. And the volunteers – dentists, students, university staff, everyone – love it.  All the way round, it’s a good feeling.”