Young families all smiles after free back-to-school dental care

Young parents and their children took advantage of a rare opportunity to have their teeth cleaned for free at a Sherwood Park dental hygiene clinic on Friday. 

As a young mother of two children and a full-time post-secondary student, Jennifer Hingley is on a limited budget. 

Her student health benefits don’t extend to her children.

She jumped on the chance to receive free teeth cleaning for her five-year-old daughter, Gabriella. 

“Being a student and a young mom on a tight budget, it was a great opportunity for me to have good dental hygiene,” said the 22-year-old mother.

“I think it is really important because a lot of young families don’t have access to this. They don’t all have benefits.”

Jennifer Hingley, holding her son Grayson, is grateful for the opportunity to access free teeth cleanings for her young family. (Sam Martin/CBC)

The dental cleanings were offered by the hygienists from Baseline Village Dental Hygiene in Sherwood Park. 

“We wanted to get involved with families before school,” said clinic owner and dental hygienist Candice Boyce. 

“Preventative care is huge for kids, and I think the bigger deal is actually just the education side of it.” 

Boyce partnered with the Terra Centre to reach young parents who could potentially benefit from free teeth cleanings. 

The centre is currently helping about a thousand young parents complete their education while raising their children. 

The cost of dental care is prohibitive for most of the teenage parents who are supported by the Terra Centre, said Donna Ma, the centre’s manager of fund development. 

“Preventative health especially is so important, but it’s something, I think, that falls to the back burner when you’re trying to think about putting food on the table or how you’re going to access child care for your child.”

Even clients with health insurance sometimes struggle to pay their dental bills, said Boyce. 

“Honestly, most families just can’t afford to take the family in and have cleanings, X-rays, and exams. It’s a huge cost,” she said. 

“Even with insurance now, those co-pays are still crazy high.”

Her clinic focuses on preventative care only, with no dentist on-site. That enables Boyce to save on overhead costs, and offer her services at a discount.

“It just allows us to really cut the costs because we just don’t have those super-high fees and material costs that the dentists have.”

Watching her daughter Gabriella happily pick out a toothbrush and lollipop, Hingley is grateful for her family’s positive experience at the clinic. 

“No tears today, so it was really good.”  

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