Dental clinic could give low-income people relief from pain

A Nanaimo businesswoman hopes to bring a unique dental clinic concept for low-income individuals to the Alberni Valley.

A Nanaimo businesswoman hopes to bring a unique dental clinic concept to the Alberni Valley.

Leanne Salter has already spearheaded a community dental clinic for low-income individuals in Nanaimo, created by the Community Organized Dental Group and run under the umbrella of Volunteer Nanaimo. The mid-Island clinic serves low-income individuals who couldn’t typically afford a visit to the dentist.

“I recognize we need the service from the work I do,” said Salter, who works for the Ministry of Social Development and is a former dental assistant.

Her volunteer work with the dental clinic is not related to her job, she said.

People on income assistance have dental plans, but they aren’t adequate to cover dental work and many people would have to pay out of pocket. Salter said many can’t afford to pay the remaining balance and end up suffering without help.

“People who are working and only making minimum wages don’t normally have dental insurance,” she said. “The only hope they get is from dentists who are willing to help or maybe they don’t get help and they have to go to the hospital to get help” because they have left their dental problems too long, she said.

The Nanaimo clinic has four volunteer dentists and is looking for more, as well as other volunteers to do tasks such as bookkeeping and appointment scheduling. It operates on two grants received through the City of Nanaimo’s social planning advisory committee.

Salter would be looking for similar support from dentists and volunteers in Port Alberni. “I’m already saving equipment for (a clinic) in Port Alberni,” Salter said last month.

She would be looking for a permanent venue for the clinic, and would also have to find a way to support it financially.

Salter took two and a half years to bring the Nanaimo clinic to fruition, so she knows there is work to be done. She has asked to speak about her plans at the City of Port Alberni’s council meeting tonight (April 26).

“I know some of the steps we have to do and understand how large the project is,” she said.

One day she would like to see dental care receive the same attention medical care does from the province. Dentists don’t get the same medical service coverage from the province that a general practitioner does, she said.

“When you look at how far that reaches…what I think is our health services and health ministry need to connect that teeth and the head are connected to the rest of the body. It’s all health,” she added.

“There’s such a separation.”

editor@albernivalleynews.com

—With files from Nanaimo News Bulletin