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The root of the dental problem

Canadians as a whole tend to like to use our healthcare system as a bragging chip.

And while our system is far ahead of many others in the world, it seems the mouth has been forgotten.

Dental care can likely be pegged as the most significant service that is not covered by OHIP.

Prior to June’s provincial election, the Liberal and NDP parties promised big spending and changes to how dental care is covered in Ontario.

The winners of that election, Doug Ford and the Conservatives, also made a promise to invest $98 million a year to help low-income people access dental care.

Ford said his plan would help 100,000 seniors a year, and seniors who make $19,300 or less, and couples with a combined income of $32,300 or less would be eligible.

About two months into their political leadership of Ontario, the PCs under Ford have delivered on a number of promises, including eliminating the cap and trade program, reinstating “buck-a-beer”, and playing a part in the CEO of Ontario Hydro taking his leave.

But there has been little said about the dental program promised during the election, and municipalities are beginning to take notice.

Durham’s commissioner and medical officer of health Dr. Robert Kyle endorsed a request from Halton Region asking Ford to fulfill his campaign promise.

To be fair, the state of dental care in Ontario is a problem that started far before Ford even thought about entering provincial politics.

But there are millions of Ontario adults and seniors who have no dental coverage, and the effects are seeping into other areas of health care.

A January 2017 study, released by the Association of Ontario Health Centres, states 61,000 emergency visits and 222,000 visits to physicians for oral health-related problems cost the province’s healthcare system $38 million in 2015.
The unfortunate reality is the people visiting doctors will likely only receive a temporary fix for the pain, and won’t get to the root of the problem.

Hopefully, more municipalities will turn the heat up on this issue, and force the hand of the provincial government to finally take action.