Filling in a service gap dental clinic strives to keep services free to needy

Volunteer dentist Dr. Sasha Tomash, clinic coordinator Arsema Okbat and volunteer dental assistant Moni Puno with an unidentified patient.

Volunteer dentist Dr. Sasha Tomash, clinic co-ordinator Arsema Okbat and volunteer dental assistant Moni Puno with an unidentified patient.

Kimberly Spice —

The free dental clinic at Evangel Hall Mission can tell you many tragic stories about people who have no funds for dental care.

One of many stories stands out for Joseph Taylor, executive director, about a young man whose father lost his job leaving him with braces for three years.

“There was a young fella in his late teens that showed up to the clinic and his father had given him braces,” Taylor told The Bulletin. “I think three years prior to that his father lost his job and the dentist wouldn’t take the braces off until he was paid. So he wore his braces for three years and by the time he got to us he just had seven teeth. That’s just an awful situation and there is no need for that.”

Volunteer dentists, hygienists and other various members of the team at Evangel Hall Mission, at 552 Adelaide St., W., provides low-income individuals and families with free dental care with no government funding.

Keeping up with the number of people in need is an ongoing challenge, which costs the clinic approximately $100,000 per year to operate.

The free services provided through the clinic include cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals and occasionally bridges, plus a denturist comes in once a week to make dentures, which averages out to a couple of dentures per week.

Currently the government funds extractions of decomposing or compromised teeth but Taylor points out that this is not the answer.

“If you are on social assistance or OW, which is welfare, technically you’re entitled to get your teeth pulled but if you want to have a tooth repaired, such as a filling, you don’t want to have it pulled,” commented Taylor. “That’s why we have people come to our drop-in and they would have teeth missing all over their mouths. After a while they can’t eat properly and their nutrition becomes terrible and it’s just a downward spiral.”

Taylor points out that a number of chronic illnesses can result from improper dental care. It has been connected with heart disease and arthritis and if a tooth infection is bad enough, the infection can spread into the bloodstream resulting in death.

The dental clinic is now only open 3-4 days a week but ideally Taylor states the mission could be open seven days a week and be a very busy clinic but that cannot happen without more funding, which does not seem to be coming very soon.

“We’ve been in touch with the city and we’ve had provincial representatives come down to see our clinic and they say nice things about it but we’ve never received any money and there is really no money available for any type of clinic like this,” Taylor reflected. “There are some free dental health clinics across the province but there aren’t a lot because it does take a lot of people to come together and make this happen so it’s not easy. But the ones that are there, there should be some type of funding to help them, even if they pay for the supplies.”

The clinic is always looking for dentists and other dental care individuals to volunteer their time.

Clinic visits must be made by appointment only. For more information, visit