Calls for better dental care grow ahead of Nunavut election

Rankin Inlet clinic says children are in pain waiting for care they could receive in Nunavut

Dentists in Rankin Inlet are asking for dental care to be an election issue for Nunavummiut. (File Photo)

By Thomas Rohner
Special to Nunatsiaq News

Rankin Inlet’s new private dental clinic is calling on MLA candidates to commit to changing government policies that leave some children in the Kivalliq capital suffering for weeks or even months.

Yvon Kubluitok of Rankin Inlet is seen in October 2020, at age 5, when he had a swollen cheek caused by dental problems. His mother, Taina Aliyak Kubluitok, says she had to wait a year and a half before receiving a call that her son could be flown to southern Canada for treatment. (Image courtesy of Taina Aliyak Kubluitok)

“It’s heartbreaking that children have to suffer so long,” a Facebook post from the Northern Smiles Dental Clinic on Oct. 7 said.

Since opening on June 15, staff at the clinic have seen “countless children in dental pain,” the post said.

Many of those kids need sedation, which requires a referral by the Government of Nunavut to a clinic in the south, said the post.

“With the current policies in place in Nunavut, sedation services to children can only be provided in the hospital in Iqaluit,” the post said.

The referral request through the GN can take several weeks or even months, the clinic said.

“This shouldn’t be the standard of care especially for children,” said the post.

Nunavut’s Health Department did not respond to a media request by deadline.

Taina Aliyak Kubluitok told Nunatsiaq News that she took her then-five-year-old son to the government clinic a year and a half ago.

It wasn’t until the end of September 2021 that she said she received a call from medical travel informing her that her son had an appointment and had to fly out the next day.

But in the meantime, Kubluitok had taken her son to the new private clinic in June.

“I went to the new dental clinic, got X-rays and got the problem teeth taken out on the first visit,” she said.

Shantè Aupilarjuk, age 4, went to a government dental clinic and has been awaiting a referral ever since, says her mother, Cassandra Nujjai Noah of Rankin Inlet. (Image courtesy of Cassandra Nujjai Noah)

Cassandra Nujjai Noah, another Rankin Inlet parent, shared a similar story.

Her daughter went to the government clinic in March 2020 and has been waiting for a referral ever since.

In June, she took her daughter to the new clinic, which she said resubmitted her request for a referral.

But Noah said, as far as she knows, the GN still hasn’t approved the referral request.

“In between those times she’s had two tooth infections and required antibiotics. Her poor face was swollen and in so much pain,” she said.

The Northern Smiles Dental Clinic said in its post that “given the gravity of the situation, we propose that the health centre in Rankin Inlet be equipped to provide sedation services so that all children suffering from dental pain can promptly be treated locally, skipping bureaucracy and wait times.”

Nunatsiaq News reached out to five of the six candidates running in the two Rankin Inlet ridings. Albert Aokaut was the only candidate without contact information on Elections Nunavut’s website.

Two candidates responded: Tagak Curley and Lorne Kusugak.

“Day surgeries [and] child dental care need to be done here,” Kusugak said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“We need to support their call for putting attention to this issue.”

Curley said in an email he also supports sedation services at the local health centre.

“Nunavummiut and MLAs must agree [that] dental services must be improved.”

The Northern Smiles Dental Clinic in Rankin Inlet is calling for changes to government policies to allow sedation of children in the community, so that more children could receive dental care without medical travel. (Screenshot)

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(16) Comments:

  1. Posted by Need travel too on

    I need dental work done (non-emergency) and have to pay out of pocket to fly from Cambay to Yellowknife to get a filling.

    This cost me more than 2000$ dollars in flights and hotel. Whatever happen to we should be getting the same medical options as down south

    • Posted by No Such Thing on

      There is no such thing as ‘southern’ medical options.

      I don’t know where this myth comes from, but it is pernicious.

      Medical care varies like night and day from province to province (as would be expected for a provincial responsibility).

      In the province that I last worked in you could wait 1-2 years for a hip replacement – as I did. The neighbouring province was about six months.

      Why would Nunavut, unable to draw the necessary staff, think that it would be different?

      • Posted by NIHS dentist on

        Because no one wants to live there. Especially when they are making up to 50% less than a southern dentist is for the same procedure.

    • Posted by Entitled on

      That is the same cost for a southerner. You probably had $3000 worth of work needed and you only paid 2k for the flight and hotel. Not bad I’d say

  2. Posted by iThink on

    This was a great letter and I agree with it 100%. It should also be added that part of an overall shift toward better dental outcomes has to be raised awareness about dental care among parents, which includes making regular brushing for kids a habit and less reliance on high sugar foods to supply our kids their caloric needs.

  3. Posted by tuktuborel on

    I feel for those poor kids in Rankin and for that matter all over Nunavut. Dental services in Nunavut for everyone is very lacking. I know of other people who have been waiting almost two years for their dentures. This is just pain sad.

    When is this GN government going to start helping residents of Nunavut better. Poor dental services, lack of Nurses and Doctors, almost non-existent facilities for the seniors. No wonder health outcomes are poor in Nunavut.

    How many years more will it take for the GN to start improving our health outcomes.

  4. Posted by Aputi on

    Start brushing your teeth, problem solved

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Better dental hygiene and nutrition starting at the preschool age is definitely needed but dental service is sorely lacking. You only need to look at the young teenagers and adults in your community to see the terrible state of dental care. People are walking around with mouths full of rotting teeth which can lead to other serious infections throughout the body and ultimately cost the health system a lot more money than providing good dental care from the get go.

      • Posted by Aputi on

        Kids get free toothbrush and toothpaste from school, teach them common sense ?

    • Posted by tuktuborel on

      That is so true. It is so disappointing to see young children and many young people with missing and rotted teeth. I am sure the vast consumption of pop plays a role too.

      • Posted by cigarettes too on

        smoking cigarettes too is really bad for your teeth and dental care but it is sad to see parents letting their young kids drink pops and energy drinks in the north

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Agree 100% that dental services are lacking in Nunavut. But just as important as access to services is the need for prevention. Everyone, but especially kids, need to brush way more and eat far fewer junk foods. My own kids and grandkids have lived in Nunavut their entire lives and I can count on one hand the number of cavities they have had between all of them. That isn’t because they have regular access to a dentist, it’s because they brush and floss twice a day and have limited access to crappy food.

  6. Posted by No one to blame except the GN on

    Want to point the blame for this? Blame the GN policy, they are restricting simple services such as nitrous, for only specialists and hospital use. Nitrous is so safe even pregnant ladies can use it.

    Dentists used to be allowed to treat their own patients at the hospital but now we’ve involved more bureaucratic hurdles, and the wait list is over a year long in Iqaluit. The GN simply likes to fuck over the abilities of the private sector to accommodate the population.

  7. Posted by FYI on

    Dental disease is literally one of the most preventable diseases.

  8. Posted by Ross Perry on

    Early childhood dental decay results from a cross infection of bacteria between mother and child when the child’s teeth begin eruption. If the mom has a balanced dental plaque, the child is unlikely to get cavities. In a study of Native American Indians, Prevora reduced serious early childhood decay significantly by treating the moms at the right time. Prevora is non-invasive, can be delivered in any medical clinic by a hygienist, and is very affordable because it treats the cause of poor oral health not its consequences. The old model of more dentists and more dental clinics is difficult to implement, is expensive and never really deals with the root cause of poor oral health. New models are much needed.

  9. Posted by Taina Kubluitok on

    My child is in one of the photo in this article and the comments here make me sick!! My child and his older brother brush their teeth 2 times a day, my children eat very healthy meals, myself along with my aippaq take good care of our children. It’s the lack of dental services we have had here in Rankin Inlet, not until Northern Dental Smiles came here is when the “game” changed. The GN run dental clinic is a gong show, there is no certified dentist permanently here, there is no school dental therapist (well, not that I am aware of). So I am very happy parent that Northern Dental Smiles is here to stay.

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