Canadian Government Restarts Charter Plane Program, Giving Inuit Children Access to Dental Care

Dental treatment

Providing adequate dental care for Canadians is hard enough already, considering that seven out of every 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some point in their lives, and about 12 million Canadians have untreated dental problems at the moment. But for indigenous residents living in remote areas of the country, the statistics are even worse: one survey recently found that approximately 85% of the country’s Inuit children need dental work on an average of eight teeth.

And for these residents, a trip to the dentist isn’t very simple. As a current research group from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has noted, indigenous families in remote locations have a tendency to ignore dental issues — even in children — because the closest dental clinic could require a plane ride.

In fact, back in 2013, the federal government chartered five planes so that 120 children living in three Nunavut communities (Cape Dorset, Arctic Bay, and Repulse Bay) could receive some much-needed dental treatments at a dental clinic in Churchill, Manitoba (the closest clinic to Nunavut).

According to a recent report from CBC News, the government is planning on restarting the program. Costing an estimated $6.9 million, the government plans to expand its charter plane service for three more years, and also plans to make the service available for Inuit children living in the additional 22 communities of Nunavut.

While this is good news for many Canadian families, many regional dentists are feeling anxious about the increase in patients; as one dentist in Iqaluit told CBC News, “A lot of us work six to seven days a week, 12- to 14-hour days.”

Additionally, the problems treated by these dentists are often fairly severe — costing about $1,000 per patient. When dental therapists are sent into remote locations to treat indigenous populations, like the communities of Nunavut, these professionals often don’t have the licensing and expertise of a dentist, hygienist, or technician. Consequently, many problems go untreated until they require major surgical work.

However, it’s no secret that preventative measures are the best way to handle medical issues. Providing children with better dental health resources is likely to have a positive impact on the communities as a whole, and with the help of government funding, a handful of dental clinics may just be able to accomplish this goal.

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