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SAIT provides dental care to vulnerable Calgarians

Calgary, AB — Some of Calgary's economically vulnerable children are getting brighter smiles thanks to SAIT and the Alex Community Health Centre.

More than 30 SAIT staff and Dental Assisting students volunteered their time at the Smiles Dental Clinic on Sunday, April 19 alongside dentists and hygienists to provide free care in the SAIT Dental Clinic — a benefit for both the patients and students.

"SAIT and the Alex really complement each other," says Carmen Sheridan, Academic Chair in SAIT's School of Health and Public Safety. "We have the clinic space and the need for student experience. The Alex has the patient base that needs the care."

Patients attending the Smiles Dental Clinics at SAIT are referred after visiting the Alex Dental Health Bus which travels to high-needs schools across the city, providing preventative dental care to kids whose families can't afford private care.

In 2014, the Alex Dental Health Bus visited 31 schools and provided preventative services including exams and x-rays to nearly 1,200 children. With those numbers, staff determined preventative services weren't enough.

"We found a 54% decay rate among the kids we worked with last year," says Denise Kokaram, founder and program lead for the Alex bus. "It was one thing for us to come in and do preventative work with those kids and find out that they needed restorative work. The second piece became ‘where do they go once this decay has been identified?' That's when the Smiles Dental Clinic was born."

In addition to basic restorative procedures, oral hygiene education plays a significant role at the Smiles Dental Clinic. SAIT students provide education around brushing, flossing and eating habits.

"We always talk about going abroad on different types of missions to help vulnerable populations in other countries," says Sheridan. "I think it's important for our students to understand that some of that is right on our doorstep and that they can assist with those needs right here."

About SAIT

SAIT is one of Canada's most exciting destinations for post-secondary education, offering more than 100 career programs and over 1,400 part-time courses (including online and distance) that position people for success in technology, trades and business. A leader in innovation, SAIT also collaborates with industry on applied research and delivers corporate training worldwide. SAIT has been recognized as being one of Alberta's Top Employers, one of the top five research colleges in Canada and the Best Alberta Workplace for Training and Development.

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