C-K health board supports dental care for low-income earners, seniors
Board members approve submitting resolution
The Chatham-Kent Board of Health threw its support behind a resolution to lobby for extension of publicly funded dental care to low-income adults and seniors.
Last year, the Healthy Smiles Ontario program was expanded to help children in low-income families, regardless of any parental employee benefits.
But that didn’t cover working poor adults or seniors, the health unit said in a report to the board Wednesday.
Those groups are often ineligible for coverage under Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, and lack employersponsored benefits.
“Oral health impacts your whole health,” said Teresa Bendo, director of public health. “We have a significant population in ChathamKent that do not have access to dental care.”
The board’s report said this marginalized population often has to choose between paying for rent, utilities or groceries, and dental care.
Bendo said lack of oral health care can have a ripple effect on a person’s life and well-being.
“It impacts their opportunities for employment. It impacts their ability to eat well,” she said.
Chatham-Kent will make a resolution to the Association of Local Public Health Agencies to ask the province to expand the service.
According to the Canadian Academy of Health Services, one person in five does not visit a dental care provider due to cost.
The report said when people can’t afford oral care, they typically visit their family doctor or the emergency room for antibiotics or pain medications that don’t address the root cause of the problem.
In Ontario, there were more than 60,000 visits to emergency rooms specifically for oral health problems last year, resulting in an approximate cost of $31 million.
The province pledged to expand oral health services starting in 2025, but the report said this was too long a wait for low-income earners.
Chatham Coun. Bob Myers, a health board member, agreed with moving forward on the issue.
“I think it’s about time that something like this happens,” he said.
Teresa Bendo, Chatham-Kent's director of public health, is shown at Wednesday's board meeting. The board backed a resolution calling for extension of publicly funded oral health care to low-income adults and seniors.