News Article

Sarnia OHTH’s First Annual Sharing Smiles Day 2015

Smiles were being shared Saturday in the cafeteria at Sarnia Collegiate.

Volunteers with a chapter of Oral Health, Total Health, a not-for-profit organization promoting good oral health for adults with special needs, had organized the first of what is expected to become its annual Sharing Smiles Day in Sarnia.

“Our mission is to educate and advocate on behalf of adults with special needs,” Dr. Jessica Bourassa, a Sarnia dentist, said shortly after the day’s events began.

The activities included a carnival with games and fun activities in the morning, and lunch provided by sponsors, entertainment by a group from St. Patrick’s Catholic High School, and educational demonstrations on oral care.

“We’re building awareness today and trying to build a rapport with Community Living, which is really helping us out,” Bourassa said.

Currently, there is a dentistry clinic for persons with special needs located at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Clients in Sarnia can travel to the Toronto clinic, but Bourassa said one of the local chapter’s goals is see more adults with special needs receiving dental care in Sarnia.

“Not for big cases,” she said, “but for routine cleanings, check ups, there’s really no reason we can’t adapt and see them here.”

Several local dentists, hygienist and assistants volunteered at the event, along with other supporters, to provide activities during the day for approximately 45 adults with special needs.

The afternoon presentation included tips about modifications that can help make good oral care easier, including for individuals who face physical limitations, Bourassa said.

“Adults with special needs are one of the most under-served populations for dental care,” she said.

They also have higher rates of periodontal disease and cavities.

Catching those issues sooner, and closer to home, can help to prevent issues from developing, including health concerns linked to oral care, Bourassa said.

“Gum disease is connected to diabetes, heart disease,” she said.

“If you can have a good foundation in the mouth, other things can improve.”

Bourassa, who grew up in Sarnia and returned after graduating from dental school two years ago, said the Sarnia chapter of the organization is unique in that it’s the only one not connected to a faculty of dentistry.

“It started in Toronto eight years ago, but it has expanded,” she said.

Sharing Smiles Days is a cornerstone event for the organization in each of the communities where the chapters are located.

Bourassa said the Sarnia chapter is also considering holding fundraisers through the year.

“The wheels are still turning for that,” she added.

The chapters of Oral Health, Total Health have set a collective goal of raising $2 million for the clinic at Mount Sinai Hospital, the only one of its kind in Ontario, Bourassa said.

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