For eight years now, various Prince Edward County residents have risen in the unforgiving dark of a January dawn to shuffle down to Dentistry from the Heart, a free dental clinic hosted by Picton Dental. On January 17th, the dental centre opened their doors yet again to offer free dental services.
If long line-ups and people willing to wait in -20 degree weather are any indication, the need for such a clinic within the community is great. This year alone, the service was provided to 72 individuals, totalling $26, 483 in dental work. Patients could choose between an extraction, filling or cleaning.
For Milford retiree and resident Wayne Brough, the free dental clinic has become a important mainstay of his dental routine.
As Brough’s wife explained while he had his blood pressure taken in preparation for his procedure it’s obvious those who attend this event are there because they have no other option for dental care.
“We’ve never had dental coverage or any kind of benefits. We’re seniors now, but the thing is, the cost is prohibitive. We’re lucky we came here before the upsurge in the cost of living here. You couldn’t survive otherwise,” expressed Lois Brough.
Charlene Insley Cruickshank of Picton Dental confirmed the need for this service within the community.
“There’s a lot of people who really can’t afford dental,” said Cruickshank. “People who live paycheque to paycheque, people who need to feed their kids or perhaps pay for kids in sports-people who just don’t have enough money for dental work after they pay their household bills. We see that everyday in our clinic.”
Cruickshank also posits the seasonal nature of employment here, being largely based on tourism, has impacted the dental health of many young people who simply don’t have dental or other benefits.
“There’s a lot of young people that are just starting out and don’t have dental benefits. They may not have full-time jobs. Working in a tourist industry, we see a lot of people who are off all winter and their teeth are just ‘going to heck’. Then, there’s the older people who are retired and are living on the government pension. They just don’t have the money,” said Cruickshank.
While the age range of participants is vast, the majority of patients could be lumped into the 20-30 year old age group or the 60-80 year old age group.
Dentistry from the Heart is truly a community event with not only two dentists and three hygienists working tirelessly all day but a team of 25 community members that volunteer their time to ensure the event is a success.
Cruickshank explained Picton Dental Centre just wanted to give back to the community by providing some dental services to those in need.
“We’ve been doing it enough years now that we see people coming year after year. So, they’re getting their teeth cleaned at least once a year. So, those people may be able to keep their teeth longer because of that,” stated Cruickshank.
“Most people who attend are from the county, although we do have some regular people come from Belleville and Trenton as well. In other years, we’ve gone to Trenton and helped with their free clinic too. So, some people rely on those clinics as their dental program, so to speak,” expressed Cruickshank.