Voters Urged to Make Filling the Gap in Dental Care a Provincial Election Issue
Local Oral Health Advocates Urge Voters to Make Filling the Gap in Dental Care a Provincial Election Issue
PORT HOPE, ON (April 19, 2022) - Local oral care advocates are urging voters to use the ballot box to find a cure for a dental problem that ails and affects millions of Ontarians every year.
The Northumberland Oral Health Coalition and Ontario Oral Health Alliance – Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock Chapter are highlighting a critical gap in Ontario’s health care system that sees an estimated 3 million people in Ontario per year not visiting a dental office because they can’t afford to pay for care (Source: Ontario Oral Health Alliance). April is Oral Health Month, and with the provincial election campaign only weeks away, local advocates and the Ontario Oral Health Alliance (OOHA) are launching the Time to Fill the Gap in Dental Care campaign.
The Time to Fill the Gap campaign highlights the need for more equitable access to dental care for everyone, while promoting the fact some people cannot afford to go see a dentist. The Time to Fill the Gap in Dental Care campaign encourages voters to ask candidates in the provincial election what they and their party will do to fill the gap in access to dental care. Voters are then being asked to keep this issue in mind when they cast a ballot in the June 2 provincial election.
Local oral care advocates will share information about the campaign and provide examples of how local residents are struggling to access dental care with provincial election candidates running in the area.
“COVID-19 has made the gap in access to dental care even worse, as people have lost jobs and health benefits,” says Anna Rusak, a member of the Northumberland Oral Health Coalition, and a Health Promoter with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. “It’s time to fill the gap in dental care. No one should have to suffer with dental pain and infection because they can’t afford to see a dentist. This is preventive medicine, and like other health care in Ontario, should be accessible to all!”
Currently, there are dental support programs in Ontario that help offset the costs of oral care for eligible low-income youth ages 17 years and under and seniors ages 65 and older. However, there is no similar program for low-income adults ages 18-64. While it’s heartening to see the federal government committing to create a national dental program to further offset the costs of oral care for more low-income Canadians, Rusak notes the time to fill the gap in dental care is now.
“No more band-aids, we need immediate action,” Rusak notes. “There are many in the 18-64 age category who face financial barriers to getting dental care. We ask the Ontario government to extend public dental programs to low-income adults immediately, to cover the basic costs of dental care including prevention, treatment and emergency care.”
There is a payoff to doing this, she adds. Many people go to doctors’ offices or hospital emergency departments to get help dealing with pain from dental problems, but they cannot get oral treatment there. According to OOHA, this costs at least $38 million annually in avoidable health care costs for problems that could be treated by a dental professional.
In Northumberland County, the Community Health Centres of Northumberland (CHC) assists clients who qualify for the seniors and children’s dental care programs, as well as clients on social assistance programs. The CHC may also be able to provide low-cost dental care for others who cannot access care due to financial hardship.
The Community Care – Dental Care in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Volunteer Dental Outreach for Haliburton County may also be able to assist people who face financial hardships paying for dental care get the support and treatment services they need.
“It’s great we have these valuable programs in our community, but even they are limited in who and how many people they can assist,” Rusak adds.
For media inquiries, contact:
Anna Rusak, Oral Health Promoter, HKPR District Health Unit, 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1216.
About the Haliburton, Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit provides important public health programs and services to residents in Northumberland County, Haliburton County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Our dedicated team of public health professionals, led by our Medical Officer of Health, promote healthy living, protect against disease, and prevent illness and injury. We work with health care providers and community partners to address emerging health issues, service gaps and social inequities to support residents in being well and reaching their full potential. Our values of trust, engagement, accountability, and leadership guide what we do every day. Learn more at www.hkpr.on.ca.