Chilliwack’s Ruth and Naomi’s Mission is raising money to open a dental clinic.
RAN executive director Scott Gaglardi said the project has been on the radar since before COVID, and it’s gaining momentum. When the RAN Family Centre opened in 2019, two rooms were set aside for a dental clinic to complement the medical clinic that operates in the same building.
“Some of it (dental services) is very cost prohibitive for people who don’t have dental plans through work,” Gaglardi said. “And it’s not just a financial barrier but also a sense of stigma, real or perceived. It’s not that people would be viewed inappropriately by others in a clinic, but maybe they’d have in their own mind that they might be.
“So having a not-for-profit dental clinic would hopefully remove the financial barrier, and because this is a clientele that we’re more familiar with, and they’re more familiar with us, it hopefully removes any sense of stigma as well, be it real or perceived.”
Anyone who’s ever had a tooth barking at them knows how all-consuming that pain can be. Most of us take for granted that we can get it fixed in a hurry, but for someone who can’t the pain can increase along with the risk of infection.
“Even just hygiene once teeth are extracted and a lack of denture care — you and I can probably fairly freely walk into a room and give a smile regardless of who’s in the room,” Gaglardi said. “But there are lots of our clients who would feel awkward smiling openly and widely because of what that might reveal. So, when accessing a job or building relationships with other people or displaying social skills, there are larger implications beyond the immediate pain of a tooth ache.”
Gaglardi hopes to have the clinic opened sometime in the fall, staffed by volunteers from Chilliwack’s dental community. He said he’s already heard from locals who want to be involved, and that is huge because it saves them the significant expense of hiring staff.
“We’ve already talked to a number of dental hygienists and assistants and practitioners in town who are very supportive of the idea,” Gaglardi noted.
Basic dental services like cleanings and tooth extractions will be offered. Gaglardi expects the clinic will be open one or two mornings a week, but he’d eventually like to see it open four times a week. He’s also like to build a relationship with a denturist and an oral surgeon, allowing for more complex care.
In the spirit of eliminating barriers, the clinic will be open to the public and not just RAN clients.
“It’s not going to be an exclusive thing,” Gaglardi said. “We don’t have tests or measures. We’re not going to be checking peoples’ addresses. Nobody needs to be a part of Ruth and Naomi’s, in one of our facilities or programs to access it.”
RAN has begun forming a dental advisory group that will help them make decisions.
“My experience with the dentist is twice-a-year cleanings and a couple fillings when I was a kid,” Gaglardi said. “Beyond that, I don’t know the dental world. I’ve learned a little bit about equipment, procedures and funding, but it’s not going to be enough. We need a group of people who are trained and experienced to help us navigate this.”
This year’s sold out Night of Hope Gala on May 5 is the main fundraiser for the dental clinic. Gaglardi estimates startup costs at just over $100,000 based on talks with dental equipment sales reps. Between ticket sales, auctions (silent and live) and donations, he anticipates the gala getting them well over halfway to their goal.
To contribute to the cause, visit ranmission.ca/give-help