By: Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald, Calgary, Ontario 04-Jul-2012 — As the city is preparing to debate Wednesday how to inject savings from its defunct fluoridation program into dental health programs for the children of low-income families, a new dental bus specifically designed for kids is rolling into Calgary within days.
A 12-metre bus, described as a “dentist’s office on wheels” arrives next Wednesday, according to the Alex Community Health Centre.
The $375,000 bus, paid for through donations from the Willow Park charity classic golf tournament, arrives fully equipped with two dental chairs, X-ray machines and “anything you could do in your dentist’s office,” said Shelley Heartwell, CEO of the Alex Community Health Centre.
“It’s a way to get out to people who can’t access services that well,” Heartwell said. “There’s no barrier between them getting on the bus. Our plan is to take it to areas in the city where children and families who are living in low income situations can get access to dental care.”
The bus could be travelling to low-income neighbourhoods fighting tooth decay by September.
City council’s community and protective services committee, meanwhile, will discuss funding two local charities to deliver dental programs to kids.
The city has earmarked $750,000 saved from shutting off fluoride injection into city drinking water last year to go toward alternative anti-cavity programs for children living in poverty.
The Alex and Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS) are named as top choices to receive the one-time funding because they have health services in place.
The Alex could be alotted $585,000 through an endowment fund to keep its bus running.
CUPS would get $165,000 in capital funding for the expansion of its dental services to include children.
CUPS now offers adult-only dental services on weekends, but a move to its new facility at 10th Street and 10th Avenue S.W. could see that program expand to include children.
Building on the success of its health outreach bus, which offers medical treatment to Calgarians living in poverty, the Alex expects its new dental bus will cater exclusively to children, and is hoping to treat up to 12,000 a year.
Controversy over the benefits of adding fluoride to the water supply saw the city quit using it last year. Council ruled that delivering dental services fell outside its mandate.
Critics voiced concern that ending fluoridation limited the access of impoverished families to the enamel-building mineral.
“Our hope is that this is going to help with that solution,” said Heartwell.
Low-income families identified dental heath as a top concern, according to a United Way report.
“If we have a health-care issue, our health-care service takes care of us, but if you have a dental issue, unless you have insurance there’s not a lot of opportunities,” said Heartwell.
The Canadian Dental Association says it supports fluoridation of municipal drinking water (at minimum levels required for efficacy as recommended by the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Committee on Drinking Water) as a safe, effective and economical means of preventing dental decay in all age groups.