New re­port points to bad lo­cal oral health

Windsor Star - - NEWS - DAVE WADDELL dwad­dell@post­

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.”

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