Oral Health Group
Feature

Oral Care Price tag: $2M

March 1, 2007
by Dental Practice Management


Ontario’s Health Minister George Smitherman could dramatically improve the dental care of low-income residents in the Toronto region by spending $2 million a year on treatment clinics in community health centres, says Toronto’s chief dentist.

Dr. Hazel Stewart, who runs the public health dental department, says, “With $2 million in the region, we could start to help people — treat their pain and infection and at least give somebody a chance at front teeth so when they go looking for a job they can present well,” Stewart said.

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A letter signed by Stewart in her capacity as chair of the Toronto Oral Health Coalition and sent to Smitherman’s office cited a recent report from Mount Sinai Hospital, which said dental care is one of the top 10 reasons for emergency ward visits.

No one knows how many go without dental benefits, but nearly 900,000 Ontarians survive on low incomes, meaning they are either on social assistance or in low-paying jobs.

The dental school at the University of Toronto offers low-cost treatments. The dental hygienist program at George Brown College offers low-cost cleaning and its denture program has space for 800 clients a year. It is currently trying to attract more clients for the denture program.

“Every year it is a little bit vulnerable because if the city is experiencing financial problems, there is no mandate from the province to the city to provide these programs,” Stewart said. “It is purely discretionary. It is at the city’s whim. So these programs are on the fringe.”

Currently, access to dental care is mostly limited to those with jobs that provide private insurance benefits, or can afford to pay for treatment out of pocket. Many on low incomes do not receive dental benefits and cannot afford regular dental fees, or even the lesser fees at several low-cost clinics in the city.


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