KELOWNA – When Marie Bergman’s broken tooth became infected, she knew her options were limited.
Homeless and living on the streets of Victoria, she sought help from a local not-for-profit dental clinic but was told she would have to wait at least four years.
“They didn’t want to touch it,” Bergman says. “My health was actually failing because the infection had gotten so bad.”
She put off the necessary surgery but when she made the move to Kelowna and started getting back on her feet, an appointment with a local dentist led her to the Gospel Mission.
“I was really relieved to know I had some place to go that would be able to help,” she says.
Since opening in 2004, the Gospel Mission Dental Clinic has helped more than 3,000 patients receive around $2 million worth of work. On Thursday, the clinic cut the ribbon on an expanded facility that will provide low-income members of the community with a place to go, not only for pain and infection control, but for restorative and basic hygiene help as well.
Executive director Randy Benson says the expansion, which includes three additional chairs and a staff of volunteer dentists, will allow them to serve a greater number of patients. The criteria, he says, is almost entirely financial.
“It’s for people who can’t afford to see other dentists,” he says. “We see a lot of seniors on fixed incomes, people on Ministry assistance, disability and what we call the working poor.”
Patients book an appointment through the clinic and are given up-to-date x-rays. Benson says many of the patients have never had x-rays done of their teeth before.
One of the machines, estimated to cost around $60,000, was donated by a dentist in Penticton.
“I think the dental community believes in what we’re doing,” Benson says. “Dental health isn’t part of our basic healthcare even though it’s critical.”
Marie Bergman says she was so pleased with the help she received at the clinic she decided to donate four of her own landscape paintings that now hang at the entrance to the clinic.
“That was her way of saying thanks and we certainly appreciate it,” Benson says.
The clinic opens to the public August 15 above the Kelowna Gospel Mission on Leon Ave.
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