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Health unit says people should lobby for free dental care

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The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is calling for an expansion of  publicly-funded dental programs for low-income adults and seniors – and they say the Province could deliver on this if enough people lobby for the change.

Anna Rusak, a health promoter with the health unit, says people should lobby their local MPP to expand dental support programs to cover low-income adults and seniors who can benefit from it.”

With an Ontario election coming up in June 2018, this issue is also worth taking up with all candidates vying for provincial office, Rusak adds.

Currently, most 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 low-income adults and seniors by 2025, Rusak and other dental advocates across Ontario want to see immediate action.

Many people with serious dental problems cannot afford dental care and go to hospital emergency rooms (ERs) for treatment. Using data from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, the health unit estimates 1,208 people in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and Kawartha Lakes went to a hospital ER for dental-related problems in 2015.

“This is not the best use of tax dollars, as hospital ER visits are very expensive, and ER staff are usually only able to prescribe pain medication and antibiotics. This can help with pain, but does not address the root cause of the problem,” Rusak adds.

“A better solution is putting programs in place that support proper oral care for all people, no matter their age. It will save unnecessary hospital visits and reduce health care costs in the long run.”

Locally, hundreds of people in Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes have already signed a petition calling for the expansion of publicly-funded dental programs for low-income adults and seniors. Similar resolutions have also been endorsed by municipal councils in the City of Kawartha Lakes and County of Northumberland.

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