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Local denturist brings smiles to the less fortunate (8 photos)

Tim Berkenbosch loves his work and recently travelled to Jamaica to provide free dentures for those in need

You don’t have to speak to Sault denturist Tim Berkenbosch, owner/operator of Berkenbosch Denture Clinic, for very long before you can tell he loves his work.

“Absolutely. It’s a great job,” Tim beamed, while speaking to SooToday.

“We denturists have the ability to give back. I really find it fulfilling to be able to see someone who comes in and give them the smile and the confidence to go and reach their own dreams. We have lots of people who come back and say ‘I just had an interview and I was so happy with my new smile, and I just got a new job.’”  

One exceptionally rewarding experience for Tim was a recent trip to Jamaica in which he made dentures, for no charge, for the less fortunate, putting new smiles on their faces.  

“Travelling to Jamaica is a really, really cool project through school. In the third year of the denturist program (taught in Ontario only at Toronto’s George Brown College), there’s a group called Nine Miles of Smiles, and they take a team of professionals and go to Jamaica for 10 days every year… they bring dentists, hygienists, denturists and dental technicians, they clean teeth, pull teeth and replace the ones people don’t have.”

“There’s a whole lab, a whole clinic set up,” said Tim, being the one denturist program student chosen to travel with the Nine Miles of Smiles Jamaican mission in 2016 (only one student is chosen to join the team of professionals every year).

“There were about 15 of us and we just worked from sunup to sundown and built dentures, and we did it all for free for the people down there.”

“It was extremely rewarding. I did more work there in that week then I did in school the entire time,” said Tim, pointing to a photo album full of memories of his Jamaican experience.

“I’m absolutely hoping to make it an annual experience with Nine Miles of Smiles.”

Approximately 75 people were treated during his Jamaican mission, Tim said.

According to the group’s Facebook page, Nine Miles of Smiles “is a non-profit healthcare volunteer organization that provides dental care to underserviced areas in Jamaica.”

“Since its founding by a Toronto dental hygienist, Nine Miles of Smiles has striven to increase access to dental care in marginalized communities. From cities to remote towns to isolated villages, volunteers work with local groups to provide much needed dental services and resources for sustainable programs,” the Facebook page stated.

Tim, along with his dental technician Tom Beaton, can build you a full set of dentures or a partial set in non-invasive, non-surgical procedures.

Tim meets with patients for an initial consultation to decide what denture option would be best for each individual, discusses pricing, takes an impression of a person’s mouth and constructs a mould from which to build that person a set of dentures.

When the process is complete, the clinic will have given new smiles and ‘put some bite’ back into a person’s life.

Dentures these days are acrylic, no longer made of porcelain (and yes, it’s true, George Washington’s dentures were made of wood!)

Because being a denturist involves replacing an individual’s own teeth with an acrylic set, one must be both a scientist and an artist.

“Absolutely. That’s the really exciting part is that you get to determine what their new smile is going to be, and we often have patients bring in pictures of themselves when they were younger with their natural teeth. They have a visual of what they’re looking for, so those photos give me a good idea so I can individually set each tooth,” Tim said.

“It gives me the ability to work with them, their family members or significant others to get a feel of what they want. There definitely is an artistic side to it.”

And, if changes to a new set of dentures need to be made, the clinic can do that too until they get it just right, Tim said.

George Brown College in Toronto is the lone post secondary institution in Ontario which trains people to be professional denturists (in a three-year program).

Tim’s father, denturist Carl Berkenbosch, a Montreal native, settled in Sault Ste. Marie and bought an existing denture clinic in 1986, he and his wife Yolande often working until late at night.

After a period of time, Carl hired dental technician Andy Beaton to help out.

“My Dad was the clinical part and Andy did the second step.”

Andy still works for the clinic and his son Tom followed in his father’s footsteps as the clinic’s newest dental technician, the clinic being a double example of a father and son/family business scenario.

Tim bought the clinic from his father Carl in Sept. 2016 after he retired, adding receptionist Hope Brule to the staff.

“We’re constantly increasing the amount of work we’re trying to do,” Tim said.

Tim, 24, completed the three-year denturist program at George Brown College in 2016.

It was a natural choice for Tim to be a denturist.

While in high school, he walked from the former St. Mary’s College site on Wellington Street at the end of the school day to his father’s office at 123A East Street, where he gained his valuable pre-College denturist experience.

“The best part is I worked under my father the entire time to get experience before I went to college, then I went away to school and learned all the new technology, combining the best of the old techniques and new techniques.”

“You get to be your own boss and you get to interact with the public and hear new stories everyday, and at the end of the day people are happy,” Tim said.

“You go to the dentist and sometimes get your teeth pulled, but you come see me and I give them back to you, and people leave here smiling and super excited.”

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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