Print
Hits: 564

Nearly 2.3 million people in Ontario cannot afford to visit a dentist or dental hygienist, which is proving to be quite costly for the healthcare system, according to the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC).

The lack of affordable dental care mainly affects low-income seniors and adults of Ontario. Such people have no other option than to go to their hospital’s emergency room when they experience dental pain or infection. While medical treatment in hospitals and doctor clinics is covered by medicare in Canada, a trip to the dentist’s office is another matter – citizens must rely on private or workplace insurance at the country’s privately-operated dental clinics, or pay out of their own pockets.

According to research done by the AOHC, each year approximately 59,000 Ontarians visit the ER and 218,000 visit their local doctor for dental pain and infection. The only treatment they are offered is painkillers, which is a temporary fix. These trips to the ER and doctor’s office are costing Ontario’s healthcare system at least $37 million dollars annually, according to the AOHC.

Since 2010, dental programs have been in place to help vulnerable children, but they are not reaching low-income adults. Healthy Smiles Ontario provides help to low-income parents when paying for their children’s dental care; however no help is provided to Ontarians over the age of 17. The Ontario government has promised to extend these programs to low-income adults, however this is not expected until 2025. The AOHC is urging the Ontario government to improve dental programs sooner rather than later.

As of March 16, 2016, CBC has been the only corporate media outlet to report on this story. Secondary media outlets, including Rabble and St. Catharine’s Standard, have also provided coverage.

 

Sources:

Association of Ontario Health Centres, “Take Action of Oral Health,” Association of Ontario Health Centres, https://www.aohc.org/oral-health

Cheryl Clock, “Brushed Aside: A smile for Deborah,” St. Catharine’s Standard, Sept. 22, 2015, http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2015/08/19/brushed-aside-a-smile-for-deborah

Rabble “2.3 million people in Ontario cannot afford dental care,” Rabble, http://rabble.ca/toolkit/3-minute-action/23-million-people-ontario-cannot-afford-dental-care

Mary Wiens, “How low-income people suffer without dental care,” CBC, Feb. 29, 2016, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/programs/metromorning/dental-care-low-income-1.3466557

 

Student Researcher: Allison Bamford (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)