The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition has been granted $11,750 by the Yukon Community Development Fund to develop a framework for a low-income dentistry program in Whitehorse.
The money will be used for research to determine what kind of program is needed in Whitehorse and what resources would be required to make it work.
“We need to develop a framework and a model that works for Whitehorse, so we’re looking into what services are most needed and wanted,” said Kristina Craig, coordinator for YAPC. “Then we’ll use that info to get the program off the ground.”
YAPC will be working with the community and the Yukon Dental Association in order to develop the framework.
“We don’t actually know what the (proposed program) will look like yet,” Craig said. “There are different gaps for different people…. There’s a variety of reasons why some people aren’t able to access dental care.”
Craig said this program was borne out of the YAPC’s Community Connects events, which happen three times a year. The program brings the community together for a meal and music and allows people with low incomes to access services they might not usually be able to. At the end of each event, people were surveyed about what services they might need and dental care “has come up many times,” Craig said.
This past Christmas, Riverstone Dental Clinic held a free clinic, which saw dozens of Yukoners line up to wait for dental services. Sammy Hachem, who owns Riverstone with partner and fellow dentist, Vi Tang, said that event demonstrated the need for low-income dental care in Whitehorse.
“The need is for really basic things,” he said. “Things like having cleanings, cavities filled, extractions. Basic dental care.”
Hachem said many of the people who came to the Christmas free clinic were employed but did not have dental coverage and did not qualify for help from social services. This leaves people who work but need dental care they can’t afford in a difficult situation, he said.
“Some people can get help from social services but if they try and they can’t, and they really can’t afford it, well, I really don’t know (what people should do). We try to help them with a payment plan if we can,” Hachem said.
For a new patient to come to Riverstone to see a dentist, the base fee is $52.
“That’s just to see the dentist,” said Selayna Hostrawser, the receptionist at Riverstone Dental Clinic.
After that, costs quickly add up: a basic cleaning is $150 to $200, plus another $150 if a patient needs X-rays, $75 for fluoride treatment and $170 to have one cavity filled. The prices for these services are fixed and based on a guide from the Yukon Dental Association, Hostrawser said.
“Dentists don’t set the price. The dental board does,” she said.
Hachem said Riverstone Dental will try to run another free clinic around Christmas time again this year.
“We will try to keep doing (the free clinic) this year to help people if we can,” he said.
YAPC does not currently have a timeline on when the framework for a low-income dental program might be completed, nor when the proposed program might begin.
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