Parked in the Horizon Church parking lot last Saturday, a team of dentistry professionals worked out of a custom-built trailer to restore the smile in Surrey’s vulnerable population.
Promoted as a dignified way to improve self-esteem and health, South Surrey dentist Ron Gaudet, hygienists Cheryl Luettger and Janel Cooper, and third-year dental students Joel Gaudet and Gurleen Boparai worked together to perform minor to surgical work – free of charge – to residents without, or with very limited access to dental coverage.
The doctor and his team performed dental work on one man and seven woman during the course of the afternoon. The man said he hasn’t been to the dentist in more than 20 years.
Each client spent at least an hour with a dental hygienist inside the 38-foot RV mobile clinic, which included three dental workstations.
By the end of the day, the dentist had performed two extractions because of pain, an absecess, a root canal and “very large fillings due to massive decay.”
Gaudet performed about $3,800 worth of work.
“Some of them do have provincial coverage, but most of them have what’s just called emergency. It doesn’t cover really anything. The two clients did have better coverage so we were able to recover about $800,” Wendy Gaudet told Peace Arch News Wednesday.
In the end, Wendy said they “probably” did more work than what they expected.
“We can’t just let someone walk away with an active absecess and in active pain. You just can’t,” Wendy said. “We saw all adults instead of kids. If we saw kids, it’s hard to say, we would probably do more fillings and hopefully less severe interventions because we catch things earlier.”
Future programs of the initiative will be targeted towards schools and teaching prevention, Wendy said. They hope the mobile clinic will familiarize a routine for young children, and educate parents and schools about the importance of dental hygiene.
Wendy says poor hygiene is a common trend in the “lower socioeconomic working poor,” but also impacts families that face language barriers or general access barriers.
“Some of these kids do have coverage but they just don’t have access to use it. They don’t know how to get involved. We want to help educate the schools to help the kids and their parents get in these programs,” Wendy said.
Wendy said they will likely visit their first school in February, and hope to visit a school twice every year.