Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Ask Premier Wynne to expand public dental programs to all Ontarians living with low income

Ontario spends less per person on dental services than any other Canadian jurisdiction. About 2.3 million Ontarians (17 per cent of the province's population) cannot afford to visit a dentist or dental hygienist. Those individuals often resort to seeking stop gap treatment in emergency rooms (ER) and primary care. As a result, Ontario spends at least $38 million in preventable dental ER and primary care visits, which often do not address the root cause of the dental problems being treated.

The 2014 Ontario budget committed to expanding public dental programs to low-income adults and seniors by 2025. People suffering from dental pain and infection cannot wait another eight years for treatment. They need help today. This lack of public dental care works against the province's Patients First goals of ,"the right care, at the right time, and right place."

Since April is National Oral Health Month, and the 2017 Ontario budget will be released on April 27, the time is right to join RNAO and the Ontario Oral Health Alliance in urging the provincial government to expand public dental services for adults and seniors living with low income.

Oral health is a critical component of overall health and well-being. Chronic infection and inflammation of the gums increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, chronic respiratory disease, and cardiovascular disease. Dental pain and loss of teeth negatively impact mental health and can hinder the sufferer's ability to find employment.

Every nine minutes, someone goes to an Ontario ER with a dental complaint. In 2015, there were almost 61,000 ER visits for oral health problems at a public cost of at least $31 million. In addition, there were almost 222,000 visits in 2014 to physicians (not including other primary care providers) for dental problems at a public cost of at least $7.5 million. These visits to ER and primary care may provide people temporary relief through treatment with painkillers and antibiotics, but their dental problems will not be resolved.

Immediate investments should be made in prevention and treatment. Addressing the oral health needs of all Ontarians will have physical, mental, and social benefits, and lead to more equitable access to oral health services.

We are calling on Premier Wynne to invest $10 million to support the first phase of a public program providing oral health care to low income adults and seniors across the province. This funding should be allocated to maximize use of existing public investments in dental clinic infrastructure in community health centres, aboriginal health access centres, and public health units.

Copies will be sent to:

  • Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
  • Patrick Brown, PC Leader
  • Andrea Horwath, NDP Leader
  • Jeff Yurek, PC Health Critic
  • France Gélinas, NDP Health Critic
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