NOTHING TO SMILE ABOUT
New report points to bad local oral health
When it comes to oral health care, area residents have little to smile about.
The declining oral health recently detected in local children is even worse among adults, said Nicole Dupuis, director of health promotion for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. Dupuis said that’s the conclusion from the analysis of data collected in a survey of 1,600 adults between January and March of this year. The complete report will be released in the coming weeks. “With adults, they’ve had their teeth longer so there’s more time for problems to develop,” said Dupuis, who gave a sneak preview of the survey’s finding at a conference called A Tale of Two Countries: Access to Oral Healthcare in Canada and the U.S, held Friday at the Fogolar Furlan Club. “More importantly, those with lower incomes are doing significantly worse.”
Those with household incomes less than $50,000, are 30- to 50-per-cent more likely to experience untreated dental needs. Those without dental insurance are 17 times more likely to have unmet dental needs or dental emergencies.
The survey revealed the desperate measures people are resorting to when they can’t afford dental services.
“We heard people are selfmedicating,” Dupuis said. “Some are buying opioids off the streets, others are resorting to home remedies.”
At a conference that compared oral health care in Canada and the U.S., Dupuis said Canadians would be surprised to find this country is actually lagging behind the U.S. in certain areas of dental care. “When it comes to oral health care, the U.S. is investing more than Canada in publicly funded oral health care,” Dupuis said. “We can learn something from them. They’re further along than us.
“It’s unfortunate given oral health care is important to overall health.”
Dupuis added one of the purposes of the one-day conference was to promote more discussion on how to move the needle forward on improving local oral health care.
“We’re hoping the workshop raises the issue of accessibility to oral health care and the impact that has on individual lives.” While there has been much debate about using fluoride in local drinking water, Dupuis said discussions can’t get stalled there. Some examples of programs currently in place that Dupuis would love to see expanded include the Essex Dental Society partnering with St. Clair College to provide free services for a day — fillings, extractions and other procedures — for people who normally don’t have access to dental care. The Downtown Mission has also opened a new clinic offering free dental services.
“All these things come out of someone’s pocket or through a charity,” Dupuis said. “We’d like to see some of these things woven together in the system.”
The action that would have the biggest impact, however, is including oral health care in OHIP or offering a similar universal insurance plan.
Even taking a provincial program such as Ontario Smiles, which is aimed at school-aged children, and extending it to adults, would be a welcome step forward, she said.
“At the health unit, we’d like to see the provincial government provide funding for adults or include dental care in OHIP,” Dupuis said. “Dental insurance for more people would improve outcomes in Windsor-Essex.”