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PETITIONING FOR BETTER DENTAL CARE

- Local MPP to Present Petition Calling for Expanded Dental-Support Programs to Include Adults -

(NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY) – A local petition calling for more publicly-funded dental support programs for adults and seniors in Ontario is on its way to Queen’s Park.

A total of 325 signatures from Northumberland County collected on a petition were recently presented to local MPP Lou Rinaldi. Since last fall, members of the Northumberland Oral Health Coalition have been circulating the petition in this region. It calls for the Ontario government to expand publicly-funded dental assistance programs to cover low-income adults and seniors. The petition is part of a province-wide effort to help improve the current situation.

MPP Rinaldi has tabled the petition in the Ontario Legislature, on behalf of the local Oral Health Coalition.

“We’re very pleased at MPP Rinaldi’s willingness to present the petition on behalf of his constituents, and hope it spurs action within the Ontario government,” says Anna Rusak, a coalition member, and Health Promoter with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “We’re also very grateful to every person who signed the petition and sees the need for action.”

At present, there are limited dental benefits for people on social assistance. Most other publicly-funded dental assistance programs in Ontario are limited to children and youth 17 years of age and younger. This age restriction, says Rusak, means that low-income adults and seniors with serious dental problems suffer in pain because they cannot afford to see a dental professional for proper care. While the Ontario government has promised to expand dental coverage to adults and seniors by 2025, the Northumberland Oral Health Coalition petition calls for that to be done within two years.

The Ontario Oral Health Alliance estimates that every nine minutes in Ontario, someone visits a hospital emergency room (ER) with a dental problem. Using data from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the Northumberland Oral Health Coalition says there were 351 dental-related visits in 2015 to hospital ERs in Northumberland County. Ninety-nine of these visits were made to Campbellford Memorial Hospital, while 252 dental-related visits were made to Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg.

With an Ontario hospital visit costing approximately $513, dental-related hospital ER visits in Northumberland cost the system more than $180,000 in 2015.

“Dental-related visits to hospital ERs are a poor use of health care dollars that could be better spent on prevention and treatment programs,” says Rusak, who notes people who visit ERs with dental problems can only get painkillers, prescriptions for antibiotics or referrals to a dentist they cannot afford. “We encourage the government to redirect these funds to publicly-funded programs that pay dental care and treatment for low-income adults and seniors. Preventing dental problems before they start saves money in the end.”

The Northumberland Oral Health Coalition includes representatives from local health and social service agencies, along with oral health professionals and concerned members of the public. The coalition has worked for over a decade to help close the gap in access to oral health care that exists for many people in Northumberland County.

For media inquiries, contact:
Anna Rusak, Oral Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100 or toll-free: 1-866-888-4577.

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