Lori Sookorukoff, Dana McKernan, Lana Healey and Dr. Matthew Osepchook, who works with the West Kootenay Community Teeth Clinic Society. Photo submitted

West Kootenay Community Teeth Clinic Society in need of dentists

The society works with clinics to offer affordable care

Submitted

What is the biggest problem with having poor teeth?

The answer, according to Nelson dentist Dr. Matt Osepchook, is obvious — pain.

“I saw a 12-year-old girl half an hour ago. She eats everything with the few good teeth left in her mouth,” said Osepchook. “For a child like that, she’s probably not getting good nourishment, and anytime she’s sitting in class she’s in pain, so it has a massive affect on her. How is she possibly going to thrive?”

“When you see kids in that scenario, you think, ‘Wow, can’t we eliminate this from the plethora of hurdles that they already have to face in order to integrate into the world?’ It’s a pretty big deal.”

Like 40 per cent of the people in the Kootenay Boundary region, this girl’s parent does not have dental insurance. She earns too much for her and her kids to be eligible for social assistance, yet has no benefits or insurance plan at work, and struggles to keep food on the table and the rent paid with nothing left for luxuries like dental care.

For her, the support of the West Kootenay Community Teeth Clinic Society has been a godsend. For the past three years, she and over 1,000 others have received high quality dental care, having to pay only 60 per cent of the usual rate. They are eligible because their net family income is less than $30,000 and they’ve lived here for more than three months.

The society credits the generosity of a group of dentists, dental assistants and hygienists for making it all possible. One of them is Osepchook, who offers his dental office facility for clinics on days when his official business is closed. Working together with five other dentists from Nelson and Castlegar, Osepchook provides several clinics each month.

This year there are 38 clinic days planned, mostly on Saturdays, responding to the needs of over 300 patients from Creston to Beaverdale and up the valleys to Kaslo and Nakusp. They’ve been identified by intake volunteers working in Nelson, Trail and Nakusp, soon to be joined by others in Castlegar and Salmo.

There are up to 25 new families being registered each month and the waiting list for that first appointment can be long. As well, many of these families have waited a long time to get any dental work done and often require multiple treatments.

“The clinics are booked six-to-eight months in advance,” said Osepchook, “which is a real problem because some people, when they finally come to see you they’re already in a chronic debilitated state with acute pain and so to say to them, well, we’ll see you in eight months, it’s very tricky.”

While there are other similar dental clinics around B.C., the West Kootenays has taken a creative and unique stride forward by developing an Adopt-a-Patient Program.

Six dentist offices across the region – in Midway, Trail, Castlegar, Nakusp and Nelson – have now agreed to accept a number of eligible Teeth Clinic patients as part of their regular practice, to get the same dental care as all of their patients, but at the reduced 60 per cent cost.

Vitally, then, patients in these areas no longer have to spend the time and expense to travel all the way to Nelson for the clinics. Their wait-time is decreased and necessary follow-up appointments can be made more easily, especially important when something like crown work is required.

To society board member Barry Nelson, the adopt-a-patient program has huge possibilities as the Teeth Clinics’ patient list grows.

“There are 30 or so dentist offices in the region,” said Nelson, “and if every one of them could adopt three of our identified and eligible patients a year, the need would be matched by the service. It would make a major difference.”

Those interested in getting involved in the society’s work can call 250-352-6560.

Just Posted

Balfour Golf Course ends 81-year drought at Boyd Cup

Balfour edged Granite Pointe and Birchbank by just one stroke

Nelson Leafs acquire forward Tyler Nypower

Nypower had 29 points last season

Four election forums planned for Nelson

The series begins with Candi-dating on Oct. 4 at the Nelson Library

More burning prohibitions rescinded in southeast B.C.

Category 2 and 3 fires will be permitted in Southeast Fire Centre as of 1p.m. on Wednesday.

VIDEO: Monday Roundup

The Star’s weekly news roundup

Province announces 74 new French teaching spots at SFU, UBC

Needed to fill demand for increasingly popular French immersion programs in B.C.

B.C. Rural Party co-founder rebukes pro-NDP accusation

Telkwa Mayor Darcy Repen disputes being NDP campaign supporter

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Canadian air force short 275 pilots

Attrition outpaces recruitment and training claims Air Force

Most Read