Clinic business

5,000 Procedures, 300 Emergencies: Low Cost Dental Clinic Filling Need

More than five years after the dental clinic’s plans for low-income Londoners were launched, and around 18 months since its low-key opening, the Wright Clinic has treated more than 600 patients.

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Planning hurdles, construction cost overruns and COVID-19 curve balls to top it off.

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More than five years after the dental clinic’s plans for low-income Londoners were launched, and around 18 months since its low-key opening, the Wright Clinic has treated more than 600 patients.

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“Things went well,” clinic founder Ken Wright said Friday. “We’ve performed over 5,000 dental procedures and treated over 300 emergency cases, which is a real help for our hospitals because many of those cases end up going to the emergency room.”

The dental clinic, located on the second floor of the Glen Cairn Community Resource Centre, opened without much fanfare in April 2021 as the third wave of the pandemic hit Ontario, a situation so severe that London was taking patients seriously COVID-19 patients from flooding Toronto hospitals.

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Continued pandemic activity through the Omicron wave last winter shattered the clinic’s plans for a true grand opening, with the public getting their first glimpse of the office during a pandemic-delayed open house on Friday.

Wright, principal architect of the public dental clinic at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, noticed that the demand for affordable dental services for low-income Londoners far outstrips the supply in the city. The idea of ​​a dedicated clinic was born.

Emergency and preventive dental care is not covered by Ontario’s public health insurance plan, but many people have dental coverage as part of their workplace benefits.

Ontario funds dental care through its social assistance and disability support programs, but rates are often far below the cost of doing business in a standard dental office, which means private practices may be reluctant to deal with every case that arises.

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  1. Dr. Ken Wright started Western's dental outreach program for low-income people and is the person who runs a permanent dental clinic for low-income people at the Glen Cairn Community Resource Center in London.  (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

    2020: Dental clinic for low-income Londoners aims for summer opening

  2. Dr. Ken Wright is a dentist and adjunct professor at Western University's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.  (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

    2019: The London Community Dental Clinic team “can’t wait to get started”

The Wright Clinic’s not-for-profit model and its support in the form of volunteers and donations enable it to care for these patients and other Londoners who meet Statistics Canada’s low-income criteria.

The 1,500 square foot clinic has four treatment rooms and has all the latest equipment, including an X-ray machine, Wright said.

The office has one staff dentist who works three days a week, Wright said, while London-area dentists volunteer to fill the remaining two days. The clinic has not only attracted general dentists and volunteer dental hygienists, but also dental specialists.

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“We’re able to do root canals, which are extremely expensive, and complex extractions,” Wright said.

The clinic’s roster of volunteers has worked about 300 hours at the clinic since it opened, he said.

The clinic is open five days a week and recently extended its hours to two evenings, Wright said. A third evening will be added soon.

Demand for services at the clinic has been intense since it opened, Wright said.

The clinic was also able to draw on student volunteers – a key part of its initial business plan – from the Schulich dental program and Fanshawe College.

“Schulich senior dental students and Fanshawe dental hygiene and assisting students work under supervision and are able to do outreach work right here in London,” Wright said.

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“It’s really a great experience for them and it also helps us to expand our service.”

The road to get the clinic up and running has been windy, Wright said. At first there were the usual zoning and planning hurdles, followed by construction estimates that were double what they originally thought, he said. The pandemic caused more delays and labor shortages made it more difficult to find staff at the start of the clinic.

Wright is grateful for the outpouring of community support for the clinic – including from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, London Intercommunity Health Centre, Western, Fanshawe and the London and District Dental Society – and the work behind the scenes advice.

“We have this fantastic board,” he said. “Thanks to all the expertise of the Board of Directors, we were able to overcome these challenges and finally be operational.”


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