Dentists have been given the green light to resume dental visits to some communities in the NWT, the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) said in a news release on Wednesday.

Visits to Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution and Aklavik can resume and facilities in those communities have met the appropriate dental care standards, which the chief public health officer approved.

Non-urgent dental travel was suspended on March 17 due to the Covid-19 pandemic following a notice from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to NWT health authorities.

Dr. Pirjo Friedman, a dentist at Adam Dental Clinic in Yellowknife, has been making dental trips to remote communities for years but hasn’t visited since dental team travel was suspended in March.
Blair McBride/NNSL file photo

Some dentists, who had been travelling to remote communities for several years are worried that the suspension of visits is putting the oral health of patients in those communities at risk.

Visits to remaining NWT communities that previously received visiting dental teams will be able to resume when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place and facilities are inspected and meet Covid-19 safety measures, HSS said.

That work is expected to continue throughout 2021-2022 and updates will be provided as health facilities in additional communities are deemed ready to accommodate visiting dentists.

The resumption of service to the six communities follows consultation with all NWT dental clinics and the NWT/Nunavut Dental Association to support the initial phase of renewed services, HSS said. Interested dentists have also been working with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority (NTHSSA) to prepare for facility privileging before practice can resume.

ISC will continue to support travel for Non-Insured Health Benefit (NIHB) clients to access eligible dental services not available in their communities. Dental services in the NWT are not an insured health service, and the GNWT works with ISC to provide space in health facilities for dentists to deliver services to NWT residents.

“Oral health and access to dentists is a critical part of overall health and wellness,” said Health Minister Julie Green. “I am pleased with the collaborative work across government to resume these services.”

A spokesperson from the NWT/Nunavut Dental Association wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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