"It's definitely great to see so many people that don't get preventative dental care are able to have that free of charge," student Jenna Mitchell said. Photo credit: Elio Elia

Dental hygiene students at Algonquin College hosted a free dental care event called Heart of the Matter as part of their capstone project on Dec. 3.

“We put together a free dental care day for low-income individuals who don’t qualify for government support programs but don’t necessarily have the disposable income to go to a private office and pay for their health care,” said Jenna Mitchell, a dental hygiene student and the head of the project.

The event had not been hosted by the students since the start of the pandemic and six students were chosen to bring it back as part of their opportunity to do outreach through their capstone project.

“We organized it from the beginning, from getting donations for products to getting volunteers, to getting referrals for clients from Ottawa Public Health,” Mitchell, 25, said.

The project prepares students for reaching out to people in their community to provide the right dental care.

“It’s definitely been a great experience. It has given us the community outreach and the skills of just communicating with people and an opportunity to work with a group of individuals we don’t typically work with,” Mitchell said.

While the students involved were required to host the event, the opportunity to help people within their community added a layer of satisfaction.

“It’s definitely great to see so many people that don’t get preventative dental care are able to have that free of charge,” Mitchell said. “So many of these people haven’t had cleanings before, haven’t had the care, and being able to treat these people while amongst our peers and classmates is greatly fulfilling.”

These dental hygiene students were two weeks from graduation, where they will be writing their board exams and heading into the workforce.

Mitchell believes projects like Heart of the Matter prepare students for the transition.

“I feel well-prepared going into the workforce. It’s definitely a crazy time, but I’m excited to get out there,” Mitchell said.