To the Editor:
Access to dental care is essential for overall health. It’s encouraging then to hear Ontario’s political parties promising to expand publicly-funded dental care to cover more people. Currently, one in five Ontarians do not visit a dentist due to cost.
While some provincial programs provide dental care coverage to children and teens, and those on social assistance, many others cannot get any help. I see the toll lack of dental care has on people in my volunteer work at the Soupertime lunch program at St. Peter’s Church in Cobourg. Dental problems that are not addressed make it difficult for people to eat healthy food, get jobs, care for their families, and be active community members.
Based on data from Ontario’s health ministry, the Northumberland Oral Health Coalition found 351 residents in Northumberland – and 61,000 Ontarians – visited hospital ERs in 2015 due to dental problems. All ER staff can do is to prescribe painkillers and antibiotics, since hospitals are not equipped to treat dental problems. At a cost of at least $513 per hospital visit, these ER trips cost our health care system at least $180,000 locally and $31 million provincially for no treatment!
These shocking figures show the need to invest in expanded publicly-funded dental coverage.
During this Ontario election, ask candidates how their parties will fix this appalling gap in our health care system.
Retired Dental Hygienist
Member, Northumberland Oral Health Coalition