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- Treating Dental Patients at Hospital ERs is Not the Best Use of Limited Health Care Resources, Group Claims -

(CITY OF KAWARTHA LAKES) – More than 550 Kawartha Lakes residents visited a hospital emergency room in 2015 for dental-related problems, a situation that oral health advocates say needs to change.

Instead, members of the local chapter of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance say the Ontario government should be investing in publicly-funded programs that can cover dental care and treatment for low-income adults and seniors.

“Tax dollars should be used to treat or prevent dental problems, which will save money in the long run and ensure limited hospital resources go to the patients who really need the care,” says Anna Rusak, a member of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance’s Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Chapter. The local chapter includes representatives from local health and social service agencies, who advocate for better access to dental care for all residents.

Using the most recent data from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the local chapter of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance says that 551 dental-related visits were made by Kawartha Lakes residents to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) in 2015. A total of 322 dental-related visits were made to Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay in 2015, while 229 Kawartha Lakes residents went to ERs at other hospitals for dental-related problems.

“People who visit hospital ERs with dental problems can only get painkillers, prescriptions for antibiotic or referrals to a dentist they couldn’t afford in the first-place,” Rusak notes.

With an average Ontario hospital visit costing approximately $513, dental-related hospital ER visits by Kawartha Lakes residents in 2015 cost the health care system nearly $283,000. Says Rusak: “These funds would be much better spent on programs that cover oral care for adults and seniors who face dental problems, but cannot afford to see the dentist. It would certainly reduce unnecessary hospital visits and save health care costs in the long run.”

Currently in Ontario, there are limited dental benefits for people on social assistance. Most other publicly-funded dental assistance programs are limited to children and youth 17 years of age and younger. This age restriction, according 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. The local chapter of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance recently collected 325 signatures from City of Kawartha Lakes residents on a petition that called for the Ontario government to immediately expand publicly-funded dental programs to cover low-income adults and seniors.

Staff with the Dental Clinic at Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes echo the call for an expansion of publicly-funded dental programs to all low-income earners in Ontario, regardless of age. Since Community Care CKL opened its Community Dental Clinic in 2011, more than 3,200 residents in Kawartha Lakes have received care and treatment.

“By enabling our fellow community members to get access to dental services, we help them lead healthier, fuller lives,” says Margot Fitzpatrick, Clinical Program Manager at Community Care CKL. “This also reduces the financial and emotional burden on families, while also reducing the impact on the health care system.”

For media inquiries, contact:

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

or Margot Fitzpatrick, Clinical Program Manager, Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes, (705) 879-4100.

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«January 2019»