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Children's Dental Care for Low Income Families

by Barry Mathias As the son of a dentist, I suffered a number of extractions due to a crowded jaw. However, it was not until I recently met Dr Mitra Hashemi that I realized how lucky I had been. "Many children from low income families do not get any dental treatment," she explains, "because their parents cannot afford the insurance or the large dental bills." The result can be a lifetime of discomfort and frustrated ambitions. "Poor teeth affect children's health and their future." Dr Hashemi, of Coast Dental Care, is the driving force and only dentist on the Board of Oral Care for Children and Adolescents (ORCCA) Dental Clinic Society that intends to care for children who would otherwise not benefit from such important treatment. The Board of six (pictured) includes Keith Andrews, president of NU-View Homes and Martine Kiliwnik, its office manager and designer; accountant Chris Cowland, CA of Cowland Paterson & Co.; Manley McLachlan, the CEO and president of the B.C. Construction Association (BCCA); and Heather Burkett, the former district principal, Saanich School District #63, on whose property ORCCA. intends to establish a clinic at Sidney Elementary School. Martine Kiliwnik is the designer of the building that will be equipped with two operatories, enabling children to have fillings, extractions, X-rays, and other basic dental care. "I joined ORCCA because I want to

help children," she says. "I'm aware how poor teeth affect children's self-esteem." Keith Andrews and Manley McLachlan bring expertise to the building and liaison aspects of the project. "We will be forming a number of sub-committees to handle the fundraising, insurance issues and the many other aspects of this project," Keith says. Eventually, he estimates as many as 30 people will be involved. "I have two children of my

ORCCA will be treating any child whose parents or guardians are unable to afford dental treatment for them. own. I know the importance of dental care when they are young." Families who earn $21,000 a year or less are able to apply to the Healthy Kids Program for up to $1,400 every two years towards each of their children's dental treatment. But, those whose income is in the range of $21,000 to $40,000 are unable to apply for any help, even though they may need such assistance. In Victoria, Cool Aid provides dental care for adults, but there is no such existing organization for children, which is why Dr Hashemi is intending to donate a

number of hours each month to help young people whose teeth need professional care. Her whole team at Coast Dental Care has also volunteered their time, and other dentists are invited to join the project "We are going to need a lot of community support," Keith says. "ORCAA has formed a non-profit society and is seeking charitable donations." He points out that this is the start of a complex project. "We will be treating any child, or young person up to the age of 19, whose parents or guardians are unable to afford dental treatment for them," says Dr Hashemi, who trained at the Dental College in Tehran, and studied at University of Western Ontario. She set up practice in Sidney five years ago, after taking a number of advanced courses, and it was her interactions with young patients that alerted her to the problems that exist for lowincome children. "I want to give back to this community which has made me so welcome." ORCCA gives special thanks to Tom Vickars, principal of Sidney Elementary School, and Saanich School Board #63 for their support in this project. Donations are gratefully accepted, and cheques should be made out to School Division 63 and mailed to our accountants, Cowland Paterson & Co, 200 - 2377 Bevan Avenue, Sidney, B.C., V8L 4M9. A charitable donation receipt will be provided for donations of $25 or more. Please mark "ORCCA" on your cheque.