Providing Care for Underserviced Communities


Initiatives from two Canadian dental schools are providing much-needed dental services to communities facing difficulties accessing dental care.

University of British Columbia

Volunteers at the UBC dental clinic held at the Anaham Reserve, British Columbia (Photo credit Jenn Parsons)

The University of British Columbia (UBC) faculty of dentistry offered a 4-day dental clinic at the Anaham Reserve in British Columbia.

Anaham, west of Williams Lake, has a permanent dental clinic run by a dentist through Health Canada, but it offers a clinic only every other week and demand is greater than the clinic’s capacity to provide services.

In July, the UBC clinic provided $18,000 worth of dental care to about 75 people from surrounding First Nations communities. It was staffed by a team of volunteers that included 8 dentists, a dental hygienist, dental assistant, two instructors, 15 dental school students and two Rotarians.

“Today’s students and their dedication to volunteer dentistry, social responsibility and related cultural understanding reflect a new generation of dentists,” says UBC clinical assistant professor Dr. Bill Brymer, one of the volunteers on the trip.

University of Saskatchewan

Dr. Jesse Barker discusses treatment with a young patient at the Saskatoon West Dental clinic.

The University of Saskatchewan college of dentistry has been operating a 7-chair outreach clinic in an underserviced area of Saskatoon for almost 2 years.

Saskatoon West Dental is a not-for-profit, private-academic partnership between clinic director Dr. Parviz Yazdani and the University of Saskatchewan. The clinic provides subsidized care to the working poor and serves patients with limited or no access to dental care. Dr.Yazdani describes his vision of a “clinic for everybody, accessible to anyone, open and available.” He explains, “No one who comes to the clinic will be denied basic urgent services, even if they cannot afford it.”

“In a private health care model like dentistry in Canada, it’s always the working poor and those with access issues who suffer the most,” says Dr. Yazdani. “Dentists owe it to the society in which they live, to reach out and fill the gap left by the system. Dentists generously give and contribute overseas—so why not in our own neighbourhoods?”

The clinic is staffed by fourth year dental students in 2-week rotations, general practice residents, staff dental therapists and hygienists, and volunteer dentists. The clinic has served almost 1000 patients since opening.