USask partners with Sask. First Nation to open Northern community dental clinic

SASKATOON – The College of Dentistry at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has partnered with the Big River First Nation to launch a new dental clinic, providing service to a community with limited access to oral health-care.

The clinic, which officially started taking patients on Sept. 28, is located in the Big River First Nation Health Centre. Prior to its opening, community members would travel to the nearest dental clinics in Shellbrook, Prince Albert or Saskatoon.

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“Access to care is a barrier to oral health that can be seen across underserved populations, as well as rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan,” said the dental college’s Director of Inclusive Community Care, Dr. Amrinderbir Singh. “It is our pleasure to partner with the Big River First Nation as we work together to improve access to dental services and bring culturally appropriate care closer to home for residents in the area.”

The new dental clinic will offer diagnostic, treatment and preventative services. It will operate on scheduled days based on demand, with extended hours—including some evenings and weekends—for flexibility to access.

“As leaders of the community, we are continuously searching for ways to improve the overall health and wellbeing of our people,” said the Big River First Nation Chief and Council in a statement. “Access to dentists and other medical services is an issue for a large part of the population on reserve. The opportunity to have a dental clinic in our community means we are moving forward in our goals of improving health disparity for Indigenous people. When we are able to bring services to the people, we increase the chances of success.”

The College of Dentistry is actively in touch with the community to assess needs and plan services. The college has also been responsible for recruiting the dental team for the new clinic. Housing for the dental team and the location of the clinic in the health centre is an in-kind contribution from the Big River First Nation.

“This clinic will be a great opportunity for First Nations people to receive continuing oral health care rather than emergency treatment only,” said Melanie Martell, senior dental therapist in the area. “Bringing the services to the community is an exciting adventure.”

The dentistry college has recently extended dental services with four clinics serving other Northern and First Nation communities in Saskatchewan. In addition to these clinics, the college will officially open the dental clinic on the USask Prince Albert Campus on Oct. 5, 2020.

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