Report shows holes in kids’ dental health care in Vancouver (via @vancouvermetro)

23 Apr

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More than 35 per cent of kids in Hamilton’s Ward 3 are in need of dental treatment, a newly released public health report has revealed.

The report shows a great divide across the city when it comes to oral health.

As many would expect, the greatest need is in “priority neighbourhoods” identified by The Spectator’s investigative Code Red series, which looked at disparities in life expectancy across Hamilton’s neighborhoods.

“Oral health is about more than cavities and clean, white teeth,” the report says, noting that in addition to the potential for disease and infection, an unhealthy smile can be a social barrier.

Fewer than half of low-income Hamiltonians have dental insurance, and have had a dental visit in the past year — compared to 82.7 per cent of those with high incomes, the report says.

One-third of middle-income residents have not seen a dentist in the past 12 months.

Provincial numbers are similar. For obvious reasons, one of the main barriers to care is financial — those with employee benefit programs versus those who must pay out-of-pocket.

But other factors also come into play, such as restrictive eligibility requirements for social programs, and a lack of awareness of options.

The province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Arlene King, has called the provincial oral health situation a “patchwork of services” that leave many in need without access to care.

The greatest need for dental care among children is on the east Mountain and lower city, particularly in Councillor Bernie Morelli’s Ward 3.

While the report mainly outlines the gaps in care and accessibility locally, it also discusses the preventive measures and programs the city is taking to address the social determinants of health.

Several programs across the city offer oral health support. These include cavity-preventing fluoride that has been added to the city’s tap water for 46 years, and the municipally-funded Special Supports program that offers assistance for low-income people requiring dental and medical treatments.

The dental health bus program provides a rolling clinic offering free emergency dental care throughout the city.

Last year, the bus provided care for 1,404 clients — and had to turn another 276 away due to overcapacity.

Other care is available through Ontario Works, and the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) program funded by the province. Through the CINOT program, 15,773 children from 142 Hamilton elementary schools were screened last year to assess their level of need.

Of those students, 4,395 required some form of treatment, with 1,587 considered urgent cases.

The public health report will be presented to the board of health at Monday’s meeting.

For more information on the city’s dental health programs, visit www.hamilton.ca.

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One Response to “Report shows holes in kids’ dental health care in Vancouver (via @vancouvermetro)”

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  1. Dental Treatment | publichealthprogram - May 5, 2013

    […] Report shows holes in kids’ dental health care in Vancouver (via @vancouvermetro) (smileagainnow.wordpress.com) […]

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