• Nick Zacharias

Filling a need with free dental care


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS

Still smiling after a long and hectic day, Dr. Diana Ponoran and her team at Ste. Angelique Dentaire in St. Lazare take a break for a photo after helping a great many patients get the dental care they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

There’s no doubt that it’s important to maintain healthy teeth and gums through regular brushing and flossing, as well as consistent professional checkups. Besides the obvious side effects of dental neglect (such as cavities, gum disease, pain, tooth loss and bad breath), more and more research has linked oral health problems to many other conditions, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, heart and kidney disease and cancer. But not everyone can afford the high cost of professional dental care (especially those who do not have insurance coverage). So what can be done?

One dentist, Dr. Diana Ponoran of Ste. Angélique dentaire in Saint-Lazare, has set out to do something about it. This past Saturday, she and her team opened up the clinic to offer free dental care for those who don’t have the means to pay.

“It’s the third year we are doing this,” said Dr. Ponoran at the end of her busy day, “and the response is always overwhelming.”

Clearly there is a local need for this service. They opened at 9 a.m. and managed to help over 20 patients in the time they were there. “When I came in at 7:30 a.m. to prepare, there were already people lined up and waiting to see us. Some of them from 4 o’clock in the morning” said Dr. Ponoran. “Some people were waiting for six hours and I’m so happy we were able to help as many as we did.”

During their day she and her staff treated everything from first-time patients in need of an initial assessment and cleaning to cracked teeth, extractions, cavity filling, and even providing dentures with the help of a denturologist.

“None of my staff were paid to be here today” she said. “They all come in happily and give their time to help those in need. For us it’s just one day in the year and it’s a way of giving back to the community.”

The Club Optimiste de Saint-Lazare was even on hand for the day, braving the inclement weather to provide a barbeque to feed patients facing long waits and to set up games to entertain the kids. Overall the day was a grand success and they look forward to repeating it next year. Dr. Ponoran’s hope is to be able to help even more people in the future, and perhaps to see other clinics join the cause.

“For us, it’s a single day in our lives, but we can make such an important difference for people who otherwise would have nowhere to turn for help.”

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