Dentists are calling on non-profit organizations to sign up for free oral health kits

Last year, 25 organizations received free oral health kits for their communities. This year, the Manitoba Dental Foundation is hoping to donate over 6,000 kits to organizations across Manitoba. Joanne Roberts has the story.

Dentists with the Manitoba Dental Foundation are looking to give back to the community and celebrate one of their own.

Frank Hechter is a retired orthodontist and executive director of the Manitoba Dental Foundation. He says the foundation looking to donate oral health kits to non-profit organizations across the province.

“The kits consist of an age-appropriate toothbrush, age-appropriate toothpaste as well as dental floss,” said Hechter.

“The essence of people’s self-perception, about whether or not they’re in a position to receive oral healthcare is important to how they see themselves and how they believe the world sees them.”

The Manitoba Dental Foundation was founded in 2015 to raise funds for organizations in Manitoba that help break down barriers to oral health care for families and individuals.

During the pandemic, it began the distribution of oral health kits and has expanded to continue providing important home tools to help prevent dental decay..

“Dentists around Manitoba and around the world for the matter recognize that there’s a huge unmet need of dental services for the underserved: the homeless and the vulnerable,” explained Hechter.

Frank Hechter, executive director of the Manitoba Dental Foundation. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

“We recognize in this era where disposable funds are limited that some of the first things that go unattended to are personal care items.”

To make sure kits don’t just stay in Winnipeg, the foundation has partnered with Harvest Manitoba.

“Harvest Manitoba provided us with the opportunity to extend our reach to individuals and communities that are clearly in need,” said Hechter.

Vince Barletta, the CEO of Harvest Manitoba added, “Certainly for our families, whether they’re getting food, oral health kits, families who are getting infant care products through our First Steps program, all of these products are helping them make ends meet in a very difficult environment and high inflation.”

Barletta says 40,000 people across the province depend on Harvest Manitoba every month, but rural communities are especially in need because many don’t have access to regular dental care.

“In many remote communities access to reliable dental care is very challenging. A lot of challenges with dental health, oral health, and we know already how hard it can be to get kids to brush their teeth at the best of times,” said Barletta.

“So this support we’re getting from the Manitoba Dental Foundation goes a long way to make sure we get those products so that we can distribute them through our foodbank network.”

Vince Barletta, Harvest Manitoba’s CEO. (Photo Credit: Joanne Roberts, CityNews)

The foundation has named the kits the Dr. Tom Dobbs oral health kits, after a Winnipeg pediatric dentist who helped extend the use of dental auxiliaries in the provision of oral healthcare, particularly for children.

“It was a dramatic change that allowed for more children to receive very high-quality care in an environment that was refreshing, enthusiastic, and not intimidating,” said Hechter.

Hechter says if Dobbs, who passed in 2021, were alive to see the program named after him, he would be overwhelmed.

Dr. Tom Dobbs, who the oral health kit program is named for. (Photo Submitted by Frank Hechter)

“He would be embarrassed and humbled because that’s just Tom. He lives in our hearts, not just of his colleagues and peers, but those undergraduate dental students that he taught and certainly the patients and parents of the kids that he treated,” said Hechter.

“He lives in our hearts, not just of his colleagues and peers, but those undergraduate dental students that he taught and certainly the patients and parents of the kids that he treated.”

Last year, Harvest Manitoba – one of 25 organizations who signed up for free oral health kits – received and distributed 2,500 through its food bank. Hechter says the foundation is hoping to surpass the total number of donations by providing over 6,000 oral health kits to people all over Manitoba.

Any organizations looking to receive oral health kits should contact Hechter at the Manitoba Dental Foundation.

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