After a year and a half, the West Kootenay Community TEETH clinic has reopened in Nelson. The clinic was the victim of arson in February 2022, completely destroying the clinic and its equipment.
TEETH is the only low-income dental clinic in the Kootenay-Boundary. Individuals and families from as far as Creston and Midway rely on the clinic for affordable and accessible dental services.
TEETH’s treasurer, Barry Nelson, said the clinic has about 2,500 registered patients, most of whom haven’t been able to access dental care since 2022.
Prior to the fire, the clinic operated 11 days a month, but Nelson said they’ve had to scale back due to a lack of staff.
“Right now, we are operating only four days a month with dentists. So we’re hoping in the new year to increase that to five days a month, but that’s going to depend on the number of dentist days that we’re able to get.”
The clinic officially reopened in October but had hoped to be open by June. Nelson explained that replacing all of the clinic’s equipment was challenging, delaying the ability to reopen.
“There was nothing that we were able to save other than a few metal instruments that could be washed. There was a long wait for the equipment to show up, and we had to not only purchase the equipment, but we also had to install it, and that takes time as well.”
According to Nelson, they’re still waiting for some equipment to arrive but have enough to operate efficiently for now.
They’re not taking new patients until at least the end of January to prioritize registered patients who haven’t been able to access the services in over a year, explained Nelson.
“We’re not taking new patients because we’re trying to catch up with the patients that had to wait for us over the past year and a half.
“While we were closed, Front Street Dental here in Nelson and Cedar Avenue Dental in Trail assisted us with providing services to some of our patients who needed emergency treatment.”
To try to resume normal operating hours, TEETH is hoping that dental professionals in the area can help.
Nelson said they’re asking any dentists or hygienists in the area to consider donating their time to help the clinic catch up.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the same amount of dentist days available, but that’s something that we hope to recruit soon, additional days from dentists who could give us an opportunity to treat more patients. If every dentist in the area was willing to give one day a year for our facility, that would probably cover our needs.”
Right now, the clinic is open every second Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 632 Front Street.