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Arviat man with dental emergency snowmobiles to Rankin for treatment

An Arviat man, who snowmobiled seven hours to Rankin Inlet to have an infected tooth removed after his local dentist was unable to provide treatment, is hoping his story will shine light on the limited access to basic services across Nunavut.

Daniel Alagalak of Arviat has been suffering from an infected tooth.
photo courtesy of Daniel Alagalak

“We sometimes face challenges with unbearable pain that can be treated,” said Daniel Alagalak. “I'm hoping that other people in authority will learn where we're at right now for our territory.”

Speaking to Kivalliq News in Rankin Inlet, Alagalak explained his saga started three weeks ago when he began feeling extreme pain due to a badly infected tooth.

He went to the health centre in Arviat, where he was told the only dentist in town works at the school.

“They told me to go the dentist at the elementary school. I went to him and he said he couldn't take my tooth out because he didn't have the necessary tools to perform (the operation),” said Alagalak. “The best he could do was give me some pills to help with the infection.”

Daniel Alagalak's snowmobile and qamutik, which he used to travel from Arviat to Rankin so his infected tooth could be treated.
photo courtesy of Daniel Alagalak

The pills ran out after a week. When he went to get a new prescription Alagalak learned the dentist was now on vacation.

“When the dentist gave me pills I wasn't as swollen. But when the pills ran out the pain came back. It became unbearable.”

He then asked the health centre if he could be sent to another community for treatment but was told the government wouldn't cover the cost of his travel.

As a last resort, he called the dentist in Rankin to see when they would be coming to Arviat next. When he found out it wouldn't be until June 20, Alagalak decided to take matters into his own hands.

“Once I got word they couldn't cover for my travels I decided to head out by snowmobile,” he said. “After waiting three weeks with my infected tooth I'd had enough. I couldn't take it any longer.”

Alagalak took the week off work and left first thing on the morning of May 13. It took almost eight hours for him to arrive in Rankin due to partial whiteout conditions. By the next day, he was able to see the dentist, who was able to remove the tooth within 10 minutes.

“I gave her a big hug. I was really happy after all that journey,” said Alagalak.

He originally considered flying to Rankin but ended up going by sled because it would only cost him a few hundred dollars in gas. Considering how much pain he was in before the tooth was removed, Alagalak said the trip was worth it for him.

“I'm hoping that things will improve so that other people won't have to go what I had to go through.”