Residents of Rankin Inlet no longer have to wait for travelling dentists to come to town in order to have their teeth fixed.
Hamza Jafri and his wife Shireen Jafri officially opened Northern Smiles Dental Clinic on June 16. Hamza said the phones have been ringing off the hook ever since.
“It’s super exciting. We are just swamped,” he said.
Hamza, who moved up from Winnipeg, first worked as a travelling dentist in Nunavut in 2017. Following a brief visit to Rankin Inlet for work that year, he thought the Kivalliq could use a permanent dentist’s office.
“When the dentist would come they were only here for such a short time (that) there was only treatment and no prevention. So I thought it would be good to be able to provide prevention so less people would be in pain,” he told Kivalliq News.
Last January, Hamza came to Rankin to find a location for the clinic. The onset of Covid-19 slowed down the grand opening, in part because there were delays with shipping equipment.
“There’s been a lot of factors but I’m here,” he said.
In addition to him and his wife, who works as the office manager, the Jafris have hired a dental assistant and a hygienist from down south. They have also hired two local staff, including a receptionist and a dental floater, who helps with day-to-day tasks of running the business.
Open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., the clinic provides all essential dental services including fillings, extractions, root canals and cleanings, as well as emergency procedures.
Hamza said he’s keeping track of patients who require specialized services, such as orthodontics and dentures, so he can have specialists visit the community.
“I’m just making a list of the demands we have to get a sense of what the community needs right now,” he said.
Aside from the convenience of not having to wait for a dentist to visit the community, Hamza said one of the benefits of having a permanent office is that he can focus on preventative care.
“We want to identify issues before something becomes irreversible. So far the experience has been the dentist comes and they pull teeth and that’s it. That’s not their fault,” he said. “I’m trying to say that this is different. I think when people realize they can save their tooth, they are so grateful.”
Hamza said he and his family are excited to have moved to the North. Right now, his main focus is making a dent in the massive wait list that has accumulated since opening.
“I just hope we can catch up with the wait list as soon as possible because I don’t want people in pain,” he said.