Giving Back a Life, Model for Dental Clinic

Post from the Chatham Voice:

Modeling her life by the philosophy that you live not by income, but outcome, Christine Fairbairn is using her education and career choice to give back to the community.

A registered dental hygienist, Fairbairn officially opened the doors to her new clinic, Bright Smiles Community Dental Hygiene, in July of this year and started Give Where You Live. The program is designed to provide dental hygiene services to people in the community who may not have the resources to get proper dental care.

Fairbairn said the first free clinic this week for the Chatham-Kent Women’s Centre went very well. People referred came to her clinic to receive a check up and if needed, referral to a dentist.

“I think the first Give Where You Live clinic went extremely well. All the women left with smiles on their faces and my heart is full,” Fairbairn said. “Just over $1,289 worth of treatment was provided, five new patient exams were performed, scaling, polishing, fluoride treatments, countless dental supplies were handed out and seven oral hygiene instructions given.”

She is also in contact with a dentist who has been a mentor to her, Dr. Mark Luvisotto of Windsor, who has offered to provide free fillings to two women who need them and two others who need further review and treatment.

Sitting in a comfy waiting room that Fairbairn designed herself to be welcoming new patients, the Chatham native talks about being born and raised here and wanting to give back, and to make basic dental care available to as many people as possible.

“I keep costs low because I want to make access to dental care more affordable,” Fairbairn explained. “My fees are 30 to 40 percent less than traditional offices. If you have no insurance, it can get very expensive and that important for even people with co-pay.”

Giving people a less expensive alternative to care is a big part of her business plan and she does a PowerPoint presentation for the group on proper oral hygiene to help with prevention of bigger dental issues down the road.

Doing all the jobs in the clinic makes for a long day for Fairbairn, from reception to patient care to cleaning, but for her it’s a labour of love as she slowly builds up her practice. Once she is more established, her next steps are to hire another hygienist and a receptionist.

Moving back to Chatham from out west, Fairbairn said she spent the last seven years in Calgary in a job she loved.

“All my family is here and it was a tough decision. I worked for a not-for-profit in Calgary doing free dental care,” she noted.

As a dental hygienist, she knows the importance of having regular dental checkups.

“Oral health is a huge part of overall health with diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes, and it’s more necessary in communities like this one with an aging population,” Fairbairn said. “I am a huge proponent of prevention. I have found two cases of oral cancer in my career and I was able to catch it early on because they came to the dentist regularly.”

She said on average people come for a check up between six to nine months, depending on their overall oral health.

Access to care here is something people don’t always take advantage of or appreciate, but going on a dental mission to Ethiopia through Kindness in Action and Hope Ethiopia this past spring showed Fairbairn people who are desperate for help.

“I was there with four dentists and one hygienist for two weeks and it was very eye opening,” she said. “We were in one location and people came from all over. Once man walked for three days to be there and because he missed the day’s clinic, he slept in the doorway overnight.

“That hit me really hard. When you are born in Canada, you are already better off than people born anywhere else in the world. There was poverty like I have never seen before. It’s not just no money for grocery stores, there are no grocery stores. If you don’t grow it, you don’t eat.”

Fairbairn said they saw a lot of villagers and soldiers and had to rely on interpreters to communicate. Some of the work involved being a detective and figuring out what the stains were on the teeth of some of the villagers, including children. It turned out it was a leaf they chewed called khat that was a stimulant and it would stain their teeth.

At her clinic, Fairbairn offers all the services a hygienist provides, including a head and neck exam, cavity screening, cleanings, polishing, three types of whitening, fluoride treatments and custom mouth guards. Sports such as football and hockey require mouth guards and soccer may be next to require them.

An important piece of news is that Fairbairn also accepts Healthy Smiles and ODSP patients, something not all clinics are doing.

Anyone interested in speaking with Fairbairn about her about her clinic or her Give Where You Live program can contact her at her Forsyth St. offices in Chatham via or call 519-351-0711.