Visiting dental service teams can resume in handful of N.W.T. communities, government says

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Dentists travelling within the Northwest Territories to provide services are now back in operation in some communities as the territorial government, with support from Indigenous Services Canada, gave dental teams the green light to travel.

"Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness. I am pleased with the collaborative work across Government to resume these services," said Julie Green, Minister of Health and Social Services in a news release issued on Wednesday.

All non-urgent services were suspended in mid-March due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.

Then, in mid-June, the Northwest Territories government relaxed guidelines to allow dentists to resume services "pending appropriate steps" — but some dentists said strict rules still prevented them from travelling into smaller communities to provide services.

The following communities can start services, as their facilities "have met facility infrastructure dental care standards" and were given approval by the Chief Public Health Officer:

  • Fort Providence, N.W.T.

  • Sambaa K'e, N.W.T.

  • Fort Simpson, N.W.T.

  • Norman Wells, N.W.T.

  • Fort Resolution, N.W.T.

  • Aklavik, N.W.T.

As well, visiting private dentists will now also be able to resume in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Inuvik and Hay River, the release says.

The rest of the communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to be back in operation "when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet COIVID-19 safety protocols," the release says.

The government says the "necessary assessments" and required work is expected to continue throughout the coming year and that more updates will be given as more facilities in other communities are confirmed.

The territory faced criticism after suspending services with many people saying it deepened the disparity in health care between larger centres and communities.

The territory has been working with Indigenous Services Canada to resume the service.

For now, Indigenous Services Canada will cover travel for people in communities to receive dental care until further notice, the release says.