Dental mission heads north

Dentistry students start Access for All mission group

Tarwinder Rai - 27 November 2020

International student dental missions are on hold, but two dentistry students found a silver lining and brought the important cause closer to home.

Along with Drs. Trudy and Blain Aucoin, fourth-year dentistry students Reid Boulet and Walter Junikiewicz took their dental mission up north to the Yukon. While in Whitehorse, the team was able to complete 300 exams on children in four different schools.

And all this was made possible by Access for All - a non-profit volunteer organization that centres on providing dental care in areas where access is limited, founded by none other than Boulet and Junikiewicz themselves in December 2019.

"We knew that access to care whether that be medical or dental can be very difficult for many patients -especially those in Northern Alberta," says Boulet, adding both Junikiewicz and him were raised in areas where access to care and goods can be tough. "Living in Canada we believed that everyone should be able to have the same access to dental care, and being able to break that barrier to care motivated us to be able to push this initiative forward."

While bringing the impact of dental missions closer to home, there was one other aspect that made this mission truly unique. The Access for All team saw that every single elementary school in the territory had a dental chair, which was a part of the amazing Yukon Children’s Dental Program.

"It was amazing to see how the preventative work has been helping these children over the years," says Boulet, adding this was the first time either of them had been to the Yukon. "This allows for dental treatment to be brought right in to every school, preventing any geographical or financial restrictions to care. Having regular exposure to the dental clinic has significantly reduced the dental anxiety for these children."

On their mission, the duo also experienced first-hand how the lack of access to dental treatment directly impacts young children. There were a few children that needed general anesthesia treatment due to the extensive work needing to be done explained Junikiewicz.

"We had a 5-year-old that had at least 8 teeth with decay in to the pulp and multiple sinus tracts. The child was in pain but since his general anesthesia appointment was not for another five months, there was not much that the dentists in the community could do for him," says Junikiewicz. "We were able to remove the tooth causing him the most pain, but knowing that at any time some of the other teeth will be hurting him and that there was nothing we could do was very tough."

It's experiences like these that Boulet and Junikiewicz want to improve through Access to All.

"There are people in our own country and province that are living with chronic dental pain because they cannot afford dental treatment or cannot access dental care due to geographical restrictions. As students, we wanted to make a difference, these trips that we are organizing are excellent opportunities for patients to receive dental care, but are also equally beneficial to students to see more remote areas in northern Alberta, learn about the different cultures in our province and provide care to those in need," added Boulet.

If you would like to hear about upcoming trips, follow Access for All Dentistry on Facebook.