When Dr. Rachel Staples and her colleagues advertised a free day of dentistry last year, they thought they’d be serving Victoria’s poorest.
But after completing about $37,000 worth of fillings, tooth extractions and cleanings at their three Academy Dental offices, Staples was struck by the spectrum of people who took advantage of the complimentary services.
“We had every gamut of Victoria, from street kids to people struggling with drug addiction to a real estate agent to single moms,” she said.
“You have to do what you’ve set out to do, which is to treat everybody as equal.”
The first come, first served Dentistry From The Heart program was initiated 13 years ago in Florida and has since grown to include more than 200 dental practices across North America.
The program provides reprieve for people who otherwise can’t afford out-of-pocket medical expenses, which StatsCan numbers show is a growing demographic across the country.
Medical costs like prescription drugs, insurance premiums and dental care increased significantly in Canada between 1997 and 2009, with the average low-income household spending more than $1,000 annually on optional health-care services.
Out-of-pocket medical expenses rose by 63 per cent over the same period after being adjusted for inflation, while the average low-income household doled out $380 annually on dental care.
“Dentistry is a luxury for some people but from my perspective, whether it’s oral disease, cavities, extractions or periodontal disease, it’s all preventable,” Staples said.
“So this provides an opportunity to educate people and hope they take some of that home and understand why regular dental care matters.”
Academy Dental will host its day of complimentary services at 1195 Fort St., and in Sooke at 6689 Sooke Rd. on Monday (April 28) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Both adults and children are welcome to choose from a single tooth extraction, single filling or a cleaning. For more information, call 250-383-6556 or visit dentistvictoria.com.
Saanich dentists Ross Crapo and Ngan Huynh also participate in Dentistry From The Heart each fall, through which they’ve helped more than 200 patients since 2010.