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MPPs receive dental care petition

Sarah Ferguson/Fort Erie Times
Members of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition, Bridges Community Health Centre and Niagara Falls Community Health Centre began collecting signatures in support of the expansion of publicly funded dental health care programs within the next two years to include adults and seniors living on low incomes. The petition was presented to MPP Wayne Gates Friday at Bridges CHC in Fort Erie. Pictured from left is Taralea McLean,  Henri-Louis St-Martin, Lori Kleinsmith, Tara Wincotte, Gates, and Shelby Agnew.

Sarah Ferguson/Fort Erie Times Members of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition, Bridges Community Health Centre and Niagara Falls Community Health Centre began collecting signatures in support of the expansion of publicly funded dental health care programs within the next two years to include adults and seniors living on low incomes. The petition was presented to MPP Wayne Gates Friday at Bridges CHC in Fort Erie. Pictured from left is Taralea McLean, Henri-Louis St-Martin, Lori Kleinsmith, Tara Wincotte, Gates, and Shelby Agnew.

No one should face barriers when they seek out oral health care.

That’s why members of the Niagara Dental Health Coalition, Bridges Community Health Centre and Niagara Falls Community Health Centre began collecting signatures in support of the expansion of publicly funded dental health care programs within the next two years to include adults and seniors living on low incomes.

“At our community health centres, we regularly see people who are in pain and who are unable to pay or unable to find a dentist who will take them as a patient,” said Lori Kleinsmith, a health promoter for Bridges.

The provincial government has committed to providing access to dental care for adults living on low incomes by 2025 but the nine year wait is too long,” Kleinsmith said.

She said a person’s oral health is related to his or her overall health. For many Niagara residents living from paycheque to paycheque, dental care is out of reach.

Having poor teeth also affects a person’s self-esteem and his or her ability to find and maintain employment.

Sometimes individuals must choose between paying for food, rent and utilities and there’s simply not enough room left in the budget for dental health care, Kleinsmith said.

“Every nine minutes, a person presents with tooth pain in an Ontario emergency room, and they can only receive antibiotics or pain killers. The cost is $30 million annually.”

Those visits could be avoided with preventative oral care. In many cases, Kleinsmith has been made aware of Bridges clients who have taken extreme measures.

“On our dental health survey from a few years ago, a person told us that they had to use pliers to remove a rotting tooth,” she said.

In August, Bridges launched a dental petition through the Niagara Dental Health Coalition.

“The response has been very strong, with over 1,800 signatures (from across Niagara) gathered in just over a month. Several community partners have helped to collect signatures and have said this issue is one that really resonates with the general public.”

On Friday, the petition was presented to Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, who has committed to reading the signatures out loud in Queen’s Park.

The petition has also been presented to Niagara’s other New Democrat MPP Cindy Forster of Welland riding.

Gates said access to dental care has been a “growing crisis for a number of years.”

“Few employers offer benefits to their employees and it started with the down cycle in manufacturing jobs. Niagara has lost many manufacturing jobs, which means many seniors have lost their post-retirement benefits and many of those jobs have been replaced with part-time work,” Gates said.

“We need a publicly funded system and we need an emphasis on a living wage.”

The MPP said the petition was a good first step in raising awareness of the need for a publicly funded dental system.

saferguson@postmedia.com

• Between two million to three million people do not visit the dentist each year mainly due to the cost.

• Every nine minutes, a person presents with tooth pain in an Ontario emergency room and can only receive antibiotics or pain killers instead of dental treatment costing more than $30 million annually.

• One in three working age adults receive no extended health benefits through their place of employment, with the concentration being in lower paid employment.

— Bridges Community Health Centre  



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