A non-profit dental clinic that provides discounts on dental care to those in need has opened in Newton, and it’s said to be the first of its kind in Surrey.
Located at the corner of 88th Avenue and 128th Street, the clinic’s mission is to “provide affordable and accessible dental care to under-served and socially disadvantaged families.”
It’s been eight years in the making and is the brainchild of Dr. Harpreet Dhillon and Dr. Belrup Patrola, who say it’s their way of giving back.
While the dentists say there are other models that provide discounted or free dental care in the region, they say the others are mostly student-driven and dentist-supervised.
Strive Dental, on the other hand, is run exclusively by professional dentists.
“We know that there’s a tremendous need for dentistry, generally speaking,” said Dhillon. “It’s not covered by general provincial health care, you either have funding from work-related insurance or you have to buy private insurance and most people can’t afford it. So if they’re not with a good job, they’re either paying out of pocket or looking for subsidized care, or not going at all.”
“We could get into the negative impacts of oral health on your systemic body, and it would be mind-boggling, but there’s such a dramatic negative effect on personality and live-ability,” added Dhillon, a South Vancouver resident who operates practices in Vancouver and Delta.
“The outward and psychological impact is quite tremendous. We know there’s a need and we see it in our day-to-day practices. We try to do what we can but we felt that if we can create an office where we can centralize that care and give back to the community, that would be the easiest way.”
The clinic will offer a 20 per cent discount to those who can’t afford dental treatment.
“There’s a large immigrant population here so with that a lot of them don’t have coverage,” said Patrola. “We ask them verbally, and we take them for their word.”
Patrola himself was unable to pay for dental care while he was in university. He was looking at a large bill for a root canal and crown, or, for much less money, have the tooth pulled. He chose the latter due to his financial limitations at the time.
“That kind of made me realize how many other people must have to make the same decision. It was tough on me. When I got into dentistry, I was talking to Dr. Dhillon and said once we’ve established ourselves, we have to find a way to give back.”
Beyond the discount they are offering to patients in need, Dhillon and Patrola say they will donate all of their net profits to local charities.
First to benefit will be Surrey Food Bank and Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen. In the future, they plan to offer funding to other charities, and perhaps launch a scholarship program for high school students interested in the health field.
The clinic also accepts Ministry of Social Services dental coverage, and won’t charge patients the difference between the ministry fee guide and the British Columbia Dental Association fee guide. Both say most dental clinics don’t accept ministry insurance, due to the lower payment they’d receive.
And the dentists said they didn’t skimp on equipment just because it’s a non-profit.
“We got the best X-ray machines that we could get, the best equipment we could get,” said Dhillon, noting they current have three operatories that are active, with another four they can use to expand as demand increases.
“It’s exactly what it would be at any other office, there’s no cutting corners. At the end of the day it’s health related. We got into this because it’s what we really enjoy doing.”
It turns out, the inspiration for the clinic goes back decades, Patrola explained.
“It goes all the way back to 1906,” said Patrola, a Delta resident who operates a practice in Fort Nelson. “We come from pretty historic Sikh families. My family was one of the first Indian families in Canada and my great grandfather’s father built the first Sikh temple in Canada. My family profile’s in the museum in Abbotsford. It’s a national historic site now. Just hearing stories of what they did for the community, it’s just been ingrained in us. This concept of Seva.”
In Sikhism, seva is a word that describes “selfless service.”
“We follow our faith as best as we can,” Dhillon chimed in. “It always tells us to do good. Don’t steal, don’t harm anyone. That’s one pillar of our religion. The other pillar is do an honest day’s living. The third one is to give back to the community. What you have is good, but let others benefit from what you do and as a religious philosophy, if everyone does that there wouldn’t be poverty and all these challenges society faces these days.”
“So we’re trying to be as charitable as possible. The more the better,” Dhillon added.
The clinic opened with a soft launch in August, but its grand opening is set for this Saturday (March 9) at 2 p.m.
Strive Dental is located at #101-12837 88th Ave., Surrey.
Learn more at strivedental.ca.