Free dental clinic fills gap for needy kids

by Gavin Wilson
Staff writer

As many as 2,000 underprivileged young people who would not normally get dental care will visit a free clinic at UBC this month.

The clinic is funded by the Ministry of Health and is staffed by third-year UBC dentistry students and dental hygienist and dental assistant students from Vancouver Community and Douglas colleges.

"The kids attending this clinic have, for one reason or another, fallen through the cracks in the social system," said UBC Dental Clinic manager James Stich.

The patients, chosen by public health staff in the Vancouver, Burnaby, North Shore, Boundary and Simon Fraser health units, will be bussed in from as far away as Mission and Abbotsford. There is no age limit, but they must be attending public school to qualify.

Last year, the provincial government introduced its Healthy Kids program, which pays for dental care for children up to age 12, and this has changed the make-up of clinic patients, Stich said.

"Now we're filling a need for older kids who require services not covered by the Healthy Kids program. They are usually about 14 to 16 years old, and more often new immigrants who have never had proper dental care before," he said.

The clinic in the Macdonald Building runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday, to May 30.