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Dental program impacts lives

When children encounter dental problems, it not only impacts their health; it can affect their concentration in school, their confidence and their interaction with others.

The Variety Children’s Dental Outreach program has benefitted many such students over the years, helping them conquer their fear of the dentist’s chair and find their smiles.

The program is the result of a partnership between Variety: The Children’s Charity, the University of Manitoba’s Pediatric Dentistry Program, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and WSD. A total of 16 schools took part in the program in 2017-18. Representatives met on June 19 for a wind-up of this year’s program.

“This program is really unique and special,” said Dr. Brad Klus, the U of M’s Division Head of Pediatric Dentistry. “We know that 80 per cent of the cavities happen in 25 per cent of the kids. So we are really targeting those students that are in the greatest of need.”

During the school year, dentists with the U of M visit schools to screen students for any potential dental issues. Parents are provided with photographs of their children’s teeth and an outline of recommended treatment. Once parental consent is obtained, students are bused to the U of M to receive the necessary treatment, at no cost to families.

The program provided dental screening to 2,200 WSD students this school year, with 300 students going on to further treatment at U of M.

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Variety CEO Jeff Liba, Variety Program and Outreach Coordinator Amanda Henry, Stanley Knowles Vice-Principal Joy Perrott, Stanley Knowles School Guidance Counsellor Joanne Rusen and Brad Klus, Division Head of Pediatric Dentistry at the U of M. Stanley Knowles was honoured for outstanding participation in the 2017-18 Variety Children’s Dental Outreach program.

Variety CEO Jeff Liba said the program was one of the pillars of Variety Manitoba’s ongoing fundraising activities.

“We see ourselves as in this for the long haul,” he said. “We really believe in early intervention and want to make a difference and remove all of the barriers that we can for all of these kids to have the best chance of success in life.”

 Shaughnessy Park School Principal Dennis Mogg said schools are in a good position to provide students with additional supports that will aid their ability to learn—whether that means addressing hunger, vision problems or a toothache. 

“We very, very much appreciate this partnership and hope to continue, so we can do whatever it takes to get our kids school-ready,” he said.

Representatives from all 16 schools spoke of the ways the program made a difference in the lives of students and their families. Luxton School Principal Nancy Karpinsky spoke of one student who moved past their initial reservations of seeing the dentist to actually getting braces.

“She can’t be more prouder to show off her smile…and it was through Variety that she took her first steps,” she said.

Another Luxton student, who was also a proud to show off his smile, said succinctly: “Now I have a happy mouth.”

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