NDHC asks MPPs to expand public dental programs to low income adults

ndhcMembers of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition (NDHC) are calling on Niagara MPPs to support the expansion of public dental programs to adults and seniors who cannot afford to pay for private dental health care.

OHIP does not provide health coverage to prevent and treat diseases of our teeth and gums. As a result, between two and three million people in Ontario do not visit a dentist, primarily due to financial barriers.

“We know that a patient presents at a hospital emergency room with an acute dental issue every nine minutes across Ontario,” said Lori Kleinsmith, new Chair of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition. Data from Niagara Region Public Health indicates that in 2015 there were over 2,300 visits to Niagara Health System emergency rooms, primarily presenting with tooth pain and infection, up three per cent since 2012.

There are various reasons why a person may visit a hospital ER for tooth pain rather than go to a dentist. However, the reality is that many people living on low incomes often have no choice but to go to the ER or their family doctor for help due to the cost barriers of private dental care. It’s estimated that this costs Ontario’s healthcare system over $30 million a year. But people can only get pain killers and antibiotics to treat an infection so the problem persists.

This is not a good use of public healthcare dollars so the Niagara Dental Health Coalition is calling on the provincial government to redirect the millions spent on hospital emergency room visits for patients presenting with dental pain and top it up with additional investments to help fund public oral health programs for low income adults and seniors.

The Niagara Dental Health Coalition, as well as partners in communities across Ontario, are currently collecting petition signatures to support the call. Petitions will be presented to MPPs this fall.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long Term Care, has a plan for ‘Putting Patients First’ which includes addressing the structural issues that create health inequities. They are proposing a truly integrated health care system that provides the care patients need no matter where they live.

The Niagara Dental Health Coalition is urging those plans to include public access to dental programs for adults and seniors with low incomes.

“Poor dental health can have a huge impact on health and economic wellbeing,” Kleinsmith said. “And even though we do not have a way to measure the downstream costs of untreated teeth and gums, we know they are significant and largely preventive.”

Ontario has made some great advancements for children in low income families to access dental care through the provincial Healthy Smiles program, but their parents, grandparents and single adults struggling on low incomes need and deserve access to dental care too.

For more information and to sign a petition see the Niagara Dental Health Coalition webpage.

Source – Niagara Dental Health Coalition press release