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Rankin Inlet dentist focusing on prevention

Permanent dental clinic a unique service in the Kivalliq
Hamza, Alaya and Shireen Jafri have a lot to be proud of since opening a full-time dental clinic in Rankin Inlet. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

A rarity in the North – residents of Rankin Inlet can actually focus on prevention of dental issues, rather than treatment, thanks to the community having its own permanent clinic.

“It’s been quite busy,” said Hamza Jafri, owner of Northern Smiles Dental Clinic with wife Shireen, about the first seven months in business since he opened in June 2021.

Unchecked dental issues can lead to root canals and tooth decay, so Jafri is trying to get as many people as possible in for regular cleanings to prevent the need for treatment.

On any given day, his clinic sees about 15 patients, split between those getting cleanings and those receiving treatments.

“When we first started, just opening the clinic was a challenge because of Covid,” said Jafri, adding that the pandemic delayed opening for nearly a year.

Supply-chain issues make ordering proper equipment a long wait at times, he said.

“Things happen,” said the good-spirited dentist. “But we have just got to push through. I’m glad we opened. We’re serving the community. We’re doing as much as we can to help them out. So, you know, better late than never.”

Communities that have dentists fly in every so often tend to receive treatment more than prevention, which was part of Jafri’s inspiration for opening his permanent Rankin Inlet business. He used to work as a travelling dentist in Nunavut in 2017, which was part of his inspiration to open a clinic in the Kivalliq.

“Now that we have a full-time clinic, we can actually bring in patients when they’re not in pain and see what their issues are,” he said.

That means that down the road, those issues don’t turn into something major that requires treatment or extraction.

He said he’s had good reception from the community since opening. Even when Kivalliq News visited the clinic to take photos, a patient was just leaving and thanking Jafri for his services.

“They definitely are very grateful for the fact there is a full-time clinic in town and they don’t have to wait for weeks to get necessary dental treatment, especially if people are in pain,” he said.

Jafri also wants people in surrounding communities to know that his clinic is open for their services, and that they don’t have to be in pain waiting for a dentist to come to their community.

Jacob Aupilardjuk greets patients with a friendly voice in his role as receptionist. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo ᔭᐃᑲᑉ ᐊᐅᐱᓛᕐᔪᒃ ᑐᙵᓱᒃᑎᑦᑎᔪᖅ ᑭᒍᓯᕆᔭᐅᓂᐊᖅᑐᓂᒃ ᑐᙵᓇᑦᑎᐊᖅᖢᓂ.
Aline Ha comes ready to work with mirror in hand. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo
Staff at the Northern Smiles Dental Clinic gather. They are Aline Ha, left, Layla Autut, Jacob Aupilardjuk, Hamza Jafri, Alaya Jafri and Shireen Jafri. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo ᓴᓇᔩᑦ Northern Smiles Dental Clinic ᑭᒍᑎᓕᕆᔨᒃᑯᓐᓂᒃ ᑲᑎᑦᑐᑦ. ᐅᑯᐊᖑᔪᑦ ᐊᓚᐃᓐ Hᐊ ᓴᐅᒥᖅᖠᕐᒥ, ᓕᓚ ᐊᐅᑐᑦ, ᔭᐃᑲᑉ ᐊᐅᐱᓛᕐᔪᒃ, Hᐊᒻᓴ ᔭᕗᕆ, ᐊᓕᔭ ᐊᒻᒪᓗ ᓱᕆᓐ ᔭᕗᕆ.
Layla Autut works as a dental assistant in the Rankin Inlet clinic. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo Layla Autut works as a dental assistant in the Rankin Inlet clinic.