Sharon Edmonds credits Toronto Public Health dentist Dr. Rishi Saxena not only for her good oral health — but for saving her life.
Edmonds, 69, went to TPH’s Dental and Oral Health Services Clinic at the Rexdale Community Hub 18 months ago, after googling where she could obtain cost-free dental services. She learned she qualified for the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program.
“Before he even did my assessment, he took my blood pressure, which I found very unusual,” Edmonds recalled. “I’m 69. No dentist has ever taken my blood pressure. It was sky high — 210/85. He told me it was urgent. I needed to go to my family doctor or to a hospital. He saved my life!”
Later, Edmonds emailed Saxena to thank him, and to tell him her doctor confirmed his diagnosis and prescribed medication.
Since, Edmonds has had two dental cleanings. She has five appointments booked for a partial denture where Saxena had pulled her loose front tooth.
She reported she is no longer afraid of the dentist.
“The first time I went, I felt so comfortable. I wanted to come back,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me anymore. … And I’m much more confident in my smile. I’m just thrilled to have dental coverage.”
Recently, TPH opened its latest dental clinic, which provides preventive and restorative care, as well as specialized oral surgery and dentures, at Rexdale Community Health Centre’s 222 Dixon Rd. office.
TPH also operates a dental clinic at RCHC’s Taber Road site.
Residents served by the Dixon clinic include members of the Somali, South Asian, and Caribbean communities.
Safia Ahmed, RCHC executive director, lauded the partnership with TPH, and called it a “great day” for area residents.
“Communities like ours, folks are on low income, families are struggling to meet basic needs, seniors on low income are challenged to pay their rent and put food on the table,” Ahmed said in an interview. “There’s no money to pay for dental services.”
The bonus — dental clients benefit from co-ordinated care and have access to RCHC health and social programs and services, Ahmed said.
“Dental clients can also visit our family physicians, nurse practitioners, access chronic disease services, have their food insecurity addressed, maybe even come to one of our day programs,” she said.
The Ontario government invested $451,000 to help build and connect the new clinic to the north Etobicoke health centre to provide services to eligible clients from children to seniors. The funding covers all operating and related clinic expenses.
“With our government’s support, Toronto Public Health’s new dental and oral health clinic will increase access to high-quality dental care for patients and families in Etobicoke and the surrounding communities,” said Sylvia Jones, deputy Ontario premier and minister of health.
Clients receive dental services from TPH staff, including dentists, denturists, dental assistants, and clerical workers.
Mayor John Tory tests one of the chairs at Toronto Public Health’s newest Dental and Oral Health Services Clinic at Rexdale Community Health Centre’s 222 Dixon Rd. location. | Dan Pearce/Metroland
Mayor John Tory toured TPH’s new dental clinic on July 25 with Jones, and Toronto’s medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa.
“This is another step we are taking to creating a more livable and healthy city for our residents,” Tory said in a statement. “These dental clinics across our city have proven to provide much-needed care and services to those who need access to affordable dental services. Now people from the Dixon Road and Rexdale communities will have better access to dental care.”
TPH reported the Dixon dental clinic will serve, each year, an estimated 1,700 people living on a low income who are enrolled in the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program, Healthy Smiles Ontario Program, Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.
De Villa called the clinic partnership “a winning combination” for community residents.
“The new dental clinic will provide much-needed services to this community and will integrate with the health centre to provide a higher level of health-related care and social services for area residents,” de Villa said in a statement.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Reporter Tamara Shephard wanted to learn the impact of Toronto Public Health’s latest dental clinic in partnership with Rexdale Community Health Centre on north Etobicoke clients.