Poor dental health has toll on communities

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Not having dental coverage comes at a high cost to both those without it and the community at large, said Bridges Community Health Centre health promoter Rhonda Barron.
Barron, in a release, said according to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Niagara Health System saw 1,908 visits to the emergency room in 2012.
Those visits cost the health care system close to $1 million.
That’s why Bridges, based in Port Colborne and Fort Erie, is advocating for publicly-funded dental health services for low-income adults and seniors.
Dental health has a profound impact on people’s physical, psycho-social and economic well-being, Barron said.
“It’s sad to say, but missing teeth can often be a barrier to finding a job. It erodes your self-esteem. For some reason our policy makers don’t take into account the human and financial consequences of the mouth being excluded from our health care system,” said Barron.
Earlier this year, Bridges developed and administered a dental health survey in order to paint a fuller picture of the dental health care issues of our communities. They are going to bring this information forward to local stakeholders, decision makers and politicians this fall at a Community Dental Health Forum.
The survey found that only 1 in 5 respondents have private dental coverage. The rest have to pay out-of-pocket and for 70%, cost is a barrier. It would partly explain why 53% of respondents have not seen a dentist in the last year and over half rated their dental health as poor or fair.
These same people are living with dental pain and/or missing, loose or broken teeth.
Two out 10 respondents were forced to visit urgent care or an emergency room for treatment, the release said.
Mary Anne Feagan, a community health worker, said issues with dental care can leave people with so much oral pain they are unable to eat, and leave them ashamed of their decaying or missing teeth that they have trained themselves not to smile.
She said it is an all-too common experience for people in the two communities.
“For many people, a common tooth ache can easily be remedied by seeing a dentist, but for people with limited or no dental benefit coverage on a low-income, a small problem can often become an ongoing source of pain, especially for those receiving Ontario Works or who are working poor and unable to pay out-of-pocket,” said Feagan.
In the release, the two said investments in the mouth will result in improved physical health, enhance quality of life and ultimately contribute to a stronger economy.

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