rotten teeth

Drs. Shammi and Geetika Saini are two dentists who volunteer their time at the Henning Emergency Clinic of Kindness Society.

A not-for-profit dental clinic in Penticton is giving dead teeth a whole new reason to shine.

The Henning Emergency Clinic of Kindness Society has begun donating dead, cracked and decayed teeth to search-and-rescue groups to help train cadaver dogs.

The use of real teeth during training helps dogs learn to pick up the scent of human remains.

“We were approached to save those teeth, because it’s hard to gather body parts,” said HECKS founder Greta Henning.

A special trainer, she added, will be coming to the South Okanagan to train the search-and-rescue dogs using the teeth.

The HECKS clinic, which operates at 431 Winnipeg St., has been open since 2017. Run by volunteers, the clinic provides emergency dental work to low-income individuals.

“Quite often we’re doing full-mouth extractions,” explained Henning. “We’re talking to people who were inches away from pulling teeth themselves.”

Henning, a certified dental hygienist, founded the society several years ago because she has “always known the need” for such a clinic in the South Okanagan.

Dentists and hygienists volunteer their time to help run the clinic several times per month, with the goal in the new year to bump that number up to several times per week.

“We’re very, very lucky in our community to have a clinic like this, to serve the South Okanagan,” said Henning, adding a dentist from Salmon Arm will make the drive to Penticton to volunteer two days out of his week.

The volunteers’ commitment to keeping the clinic running, Henning added, helps “lessen the load” on emergency rooms.