My husband is in the midst of a dental procedure that will stretch out over several months and set us back many thousands of dollars. One reason for the high cost is because like more than half of Canadians over 60 we don’t have dental insurance. When we retired and the dental coverage we had with our employer ended, we looked into buying dental insurance and found out the pricey monthly premiums for most plans would just cover basic things like annual check ups, cleanings and x-rays. If we needed anything major done insurance would only kick in a small fraction of the cost and we’d be left with the majority of the bill. My husband decided we would ‘roll the dice’ and go it on our own.
This current dental crisis hasn’t made Dave change his mind about that decision because even if we had dental insurance we would still be paying for a goodly portion of the bill he is racking up. Luckily we can afford the cost of needed dental care but many people cannot. 50% of low- income Canadians have no dental insurance. I have seen evidence of this first hand. I volunteer in a thrift store in one of the poorest areas of Winnipeg and one of things I first noticed about our many low-income clients was the horrible state of their teeth. It made me sad to realize they simply didn’t have money for proper dental care.
In a recent Macleans article Anne Kingston reports on how this lack of access to good dental care has major quality of life and health implications. Periodontal disease impacts heart health and tooth pain can lead to drug addiction. Dentists can spot cancerous mouth lesions. If your teeth don’t look good your job prospects shrink and your chance of social mobility diminishes. The condition of your teeth is often the best indicator of your social status.
As part of my job I visit inner city schools. Many of the children’s families simply can’t afford dental care. Students from the university’s dental faculty come to a number of these schools volunteering their time to help provide basic care for some children and that’s commendable but not nearly all children who require this service receive it.
I think one of the reasons my husband’s teeth are costing us so much money now might be because his parents couldn’t always afford the luxury of taking him to the dentist regularly when he was a child.
Good dental care for kids just makes sense. How can you learn at school if your teeth are hurting? What does it do to your self-esteem to have poor teeth?
In her Macleans article Kingston makes the case for including dental care in all provincial health care plans.
It’s an idea that resonates with me!