Youth dental program marks 25 years of helping inner-city children

For the past 25 years, thousands of inner-city children have received the dental they needed, thanks to a partnership between the University of Manitoba’s College of Dentistry and the Winnipeg School Division.

The outreach program currently provides free dental care to young people from 18 schools, easing a financial burden for many local families.

It also aims to provide a “less scary” experience for young patients.

“It’s really rewarding when you have a kid and you’re able to do some work on them and at the end of the day they say, ‘I love going to the dentist,’” said Navi Mann, a student at the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry.

The program first launched with Shaughnessy Park School in 1998 and provides a full range of comprehensive dental services such as fillings, cleanings and crowns.

“This is very much a win-win proposition,” said Dr. James Ksionzyk, an assistant professor at the college. “The dental students have an opportunity to learn how to treat children when they finally graduate and are in private practice, and the patients they’re seeing are often patients that face barriers to care otherwise, and may not be able to access treatment if not for this program.”

During the school year, around 40 children are bussed to the dental school’s clinic for care every Friday.

In 2022-23, dental students screened more than 250 children in kindergarten to Grade 6.

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