Local oral health advocates are urging voters to use the ballot box to find a cure for a dental problem that affects millions of Ontarians every year.
The Ontario Oral Health Alliance, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Chapter, is highlighting a critical gap in the provincial health care system that sees an estimated three million people in Ontario per year not visiting a dental office because they can’t afford to pay for care. April is Oral Health Month, and with the provincial election campaign only weeks away, the Ontario Oral Health Alliance (OOHA) is launching its Time to Fill the Gap in Dental Care advocacy campaign.
The campaign highlights the need for more equitable access to dental care for everyone, while promoting the fact some people cannot afford to go see a dentist. It also encourages voters to ask their local candidates what they and their party will do to fill the gap in access to dental care.
“COVID-19 has made the gap in access to dental care even worse, as people have lost jobs and health benefits,” says Anna Rusak, a member of the local OOHA chapter, and a Health Promoter with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “It’s time to fill the gap in dental care. No one should have to suffer with dental pain and infection because they can’t afford to see a dentist. This is preventive medicine, and like other health care in Ontario, should be accessible to all!”
Currently, there are dental support programs in Ontario that help offset the costs of oral care for eligible low-income youth ages 17 years and under and seniors ages 65 and older. However, there is no similar program for low-income adults ages 18-64. While it’s great to see the federal government committing to create a national dental program to further offset the costs of oral care for more low-income people, Rusak says now is the time to fill the gap.
“No more band-aids, we need immediate action,” Rusak notes. “There are many in the 18-64 age category who face financial barriers to getting dental care. We ask the Ontario government to extend public dental programs to low-income adults immediately, to cover the basic costs of prevention, treatment, and emergency dental care.”
There is a payoff to doing this, she adds. Many people go to doctors’ offices or hospital emergency departments to get help dealing with pain from dental problems, but they cannot get oral treatment there. According to OOHA, this costs at least $38 million annually in avoidable health care costs for problems that could be treated by a dental professional.
Locally, the Community Care – Dental Care in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Volunteer Dental Outreach for Haliburton County may be able to assist people who face financial hardships paying for dental care get the support and treatment services they need. “It’s great we have these valuable programs in our community, but even they are limited in who and how many people they can assist,” Rusak adds.