A third of adults in Windsor-Essex are not getting regular dental care.

That statement from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit as it rolls out a new survey on the dental health needs of adults and seniors in the region.

The Health Unit is using data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, done by Statistics Canada in 2013. It says 35 per cent of local residents 18 years of age and over have reported no form of dental insurance. It also shows 28 per cent of that age group visits the dentist less than once a year for checkups and only for emergencies.

Health Promotion Specialist Shannen Janisse says they want to do a survey to assess the situation and get a better understanding of the need in Windsor-Essex.

“The goal of the survey is to learn more about residents’ oral health and issues they face in getting care for their teeth and mouth,” says Janisse. “We know this issue affects adults and seniors with low income, but we think there is more to it.”

“There may be individuals in our community who may have a job, but don’t have enough dental insurance to cover things like tooth extractions or root canals. There could be retired seniors who don’t have health benefits, as they’re now retired, or individuals on social assistance that may have some coverage, but not enough,” adds Janisse.

Residents are encouraged to fill out a survey at wedentalsurvey.org or call the Health Unit at 519-258-2146, extension 3212 to have a copy mailed to them in one of the following languages: English, French, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese.

The survey is available until March 2, 2018.
The health unit provides the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, through provincial funding, for children 0 to 17 living in low-income families. But, there are no provincial dental care programs for adults and seniors living in low income families.

Programs such as Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) provide some coverage, but they don’t often cover the costs of checkups and cleanings and they involve eligibility criteria.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says it receives several calls a week from people who can’t afford dental treatment. Officials say they are concerned access to oral health care will become more challenging as the population ages and seniors retire without dental insurance benefits.

The Health Unit claims poor oral health is increasingly linked with diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention low self-esteem, fewer employment opportunities, and higher rates of poverty.