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The dentist’s chair is not a favourite place for most. Still, we go, we sit, we recline and say “ahh” because we know that regular examinations are crucial to our overall health. Among the 32 per cent of Canadians without dental insurance, however, these visits are all too rare.
Statistics have long shown that low-income families, Aboriginal communities and immigrants are least likely to be insured or engage in preventative dental care. As a result, these people are most likely to suffer from oral pain, cavities and infection. For children, especially, untreated dental diseases are also known to result in other issues such as lost sleep, poor growth, self-esteem issues and learning problems.
“Our concern has always been for the children who slip through the cracks,” says Margaret Dennett, Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) instructor. Dennett, along with fellow CDA instructor Sherry Messenger will direct the ninth annual Tooth Trolley event, which will run this year from May 19 to 22.
Starting early in the morning, with bells ringing, colourful, old-fashioned Trolley Buses, provided by the Vancouver Trolley Company, pick up pre-registered children and their families from Vancouver and Burnaby elementary schools and transports them to the VCC Dental Clinic in downtown Vancouver. There, the kids are greeted by a team of smiling “Tooth Fairies” (VCC Certified Dental Assistant, and students) and given free dental examinations and preventative treatments including coronal polishing, fluoride and sealant applications in VCC’s 36-seat facility.
During the day, kids and parents also participate in seminars and fun activities focused on nutrition and dental health, and receive a take-home bag of wholesome snacks and health care products (courtesy of Chevron Canada, Sunstar and Colgate) before their return trolley trip.
A brave face
VCC has, over the past nine years, seen over 1,000 children benefit from the Tooth Trolley services, but for Dennett, certain participants have left a lasting impression.
“She came in with tears in her eyes and refused to sit in the chair,” remembers Dennett, of a certain 7-year-old girl who had recently immigrated to Canada from China. To help ease her fears, a CDA student let the girl watch the other children receive their treatments, carefully explaining each step of the process in her own language. When the girl’s turn came, she bravely climbed into the chair. Upon examination, Dennett recalls seeing evidence that the girl’s previous dental experience was “probably quite stressful,” as she had received restorative work under what was most likely a “less than relaxed atmosphere.”
After her examination by the VCC team, Dennett watched the girl leave with a bright smile on her face, hand-in-hand with the Tooth Fairy.
The Tooth Trolley continues to touch lives thanks to generous funding by Chevron Canada.
Did you know that, for 45 years, Vancouver Community College has operated the largest and longest running training program for dental health professionals in the province, with more than 150 students graduating each year? Learn more at an upcoming info session.