X-ray machine donation making dental care more accessible at the Gathering Place

For clients at the Gathering Place in St. John's, getting free dental care just got a lot easier, with the donation of a panoramic X-ray machine.

"It's so valuable to have here. It's going to be a big asset," says Dr. Linda Blakey, one of the dentists who volunteers her time giving dental care to people at the Gathering Place.

The machine costs $35,000, but also requires other electronic and computer equipment to operate.

It was donated to the Gathering Place by the Canadian International Dental Foundation, a registered charity that does most of its work in Haiti.

Sherry Vivian/CBC

The machine's donation is a welcome addition to the Gathering Place's dental clinic, which opened in December 2018.

"Access to care is a huge challenge for a great deal of the population, so we're very fortunate that we can offer that to the guests of the Gathering Place," said Blakey.

"And the collaboration with the dentists and the hygienists and the assistants that come here and volunteer, we're very fortunate to have all these great people to work with us."

Stewart Gillis, with the dental foundation, said as the group approaches its 10th anniversary, it wanted to focus some of its attention on St. John's and an organization helping people in need.

"We recognize a lot of the problems we see in Haiti actually affect people in Canada, as well – the provision of care and equipment and availability and access to dentistry," Gillis said.

Sherry Vivian/CBC

"What we're doing at the Gathering Place is we're focusing on vulnerable patient groups and we hope that they can find the kind of care that Canadian citizens have come to expect in Canada, and we would like to make that accessible."

The number of people who avail of the dentistry services at the Gathering Places varies daily.

But Joanne Thompson, executive director of the Gathering Place, said the difference it makes is immeasurable.

"In less than a year of opening the dental clinic it has made such a difference in people's lives for individual who are simply not able to access services," Thompson said.

"Individuals that we know, in the past, would have perhaps died from dental abscesses, and today to have a new piece of equipment that's been gifted to us … I truly say thank you."

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