For the first time in Saskatoon, free emergency dental care will be available to patients facing financial barriers to regular treatment at DIRECT Dental, operating out of the Saskatoon West Dental Clinic on 14 predetermined Saturday afternoons during the University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry academic year, October to March.
With its grand opening on October 20, the clinic will be managed on a first-come, first served basis where patients are triaged and treated according to their needs. It will offer operative restorations, extractions, initiation of endodontic treatment for pain relief (open and drains), and cleanings.
“We want to be able to address the barriers that [patients] might have to oral health and connect them to different resources so we look over the whole person, not just their teeth,” said fourth-year dental student Kristen Kezar in a recent interview with the Star Phoenix.
DIRECT Dental is the result of more than a year of planning by Kezar along with fellow students Christopher Bertsch, Mary Tait, and Christy MacPherson with support from the school. Treatment will be delivered by the most senior students, with junior students in support roles. Volunteers including dentists, dental assistants, and dental hygienists will oversee their work.
Kezar said the senior students will provide a diagnosis and discuss treatment options, but if it’s beyond what the clinic can provide, they will provide referrals. She also said they will lay out options for the patients, who will then decide where the referrals will be made to.
“The main thing was we want to help our community. It does benefit the students as well, just in terms of more clinical experience,” Kezar said, adding that students get to see how a clinic outside of the university works. “You get the opportunity to meet different mentors in the community.”