There are an estimated 500-plus children on the Saanich Peninsula who need basic dental care but they simply cannot get it because of the prohibitive cost.
A new society has formed to address those needs and it was started by a Sidney dentist.
After two years of hard work getting through the regulations and permitting processes, Dr. Mitra Hashemi has helped form a new society — ORCCA, or Oral Care for Children and Adolescents. It hopes to begin work in the community by this October or November.
Hashemi says she has seen the need first-hand at her own Sidney dental practice, Coast Dental Care. She said she hopes by establishing this society, she, her staff and other dentists in the area will work together to help solve basic dental care issues for children in need.
“In B.C., every family that makes less than $21,000 per year is eligible to apply for the Healthy Kids program,” she explains. “By going through that program, they are identified and can receive some dental service.”
Families who earn between $21,000 and $40,000 and do not have dental coverage or insurance, are unable to apply for that program. As a result, there are children who need basic care and more education to help prevent problems in the future.
That’s where ORCCA hopes to be able to fill the gap.
Their plan is to serve children, under the age of 19 and from low income families, in need of basic dental care: exams, X-rays, cleaning, fillings, extractions and root canal work.
Right now, Hashemi and the staff at Coast Dental Care in Sidney are leading the way and will be operating ORCCA one day per week out of a refurbished annex building at Sidney Elementary School.
School District 63 has been very supportive of their effort, Hashemi says.
“They made it possible for us. They found us the space and it’s cost-free for five years.”
That donation is a big help, as the program is not without its expense. To set up a proper dental office in this manner, Hashemi says the society needs to raise around $85,000. That money will help fill the annex building with dental supplies and equipment. Already, Hashemi says donors and sponsors are stepping up. One company has even vowed to donate all of the society’s basic start-up supplies.
The effort will also require the help of the community, says Hashemi.
“This isn’t really easy to do,” she explains, “and we need enough support from the community to do it.”
In addition to donation and supplies, Hashemi says the effort will require time from other dentists if it hopes to grow. While ORCCA will start small, she hopes other dentists will see its value and step in to lend their help — and their time.
Hashemi says she grew up in a third world country and understands how poverty can leave people behind and prevent them from getting decent dental or other medical care.
“I have been practicing in Sidney for five years and I have seen these problems here.
“I had a 19-year-old come to the office asking for their two front teeth to be pulled. as he was in a lot of pain and couldn’t afford expensive treatment.”
That visit, she says, drove her to wonder why a first world country like Canada and in a place like Sidney has this problem.
“It must start with proper care,” she says. “It’s prevention, before the problems start.”
ORCCA hopes to help teach young people about proper oral care and hopefully they can avoid trouble down the road.
A modest start with one chair and one day a week will hopefully be the catalyst for change that Hashemi wants to see on the Saanich Peninsula.
As the society is starting small, they plan to serve only youth on the Saanich Peninsula and Gulf Islands first. That will be their main focus to begin with, but should the demand grow, ORCCA will try to keep up.
“We do hope to grow outside of this immediate area,” Hashemi says. “But we are a new organization and our goal is to grow over time. Right now though, we do have a place to start.”
Donations are being accepted and cheques should be made out to School District 63 and mailed to Cowland Paterson & Co. accountants, 200-2377 Bevan Ave., Sidney, B.C., V8L 4M9. Please mark “ORCCA” on the cheque.
Eligible patients must have a Healthy Child Card or be from a family whose total income is less than $40,000 a year and has no dental insurance.
To find out more about ORCCA, contact Dr. Mitra Hashemi at 250-857-4261 or visit www.orccadental.ca (the website is still under construction).