Nothing to Smile About

Written by admin, October 12, 2012

October 12, 2012 – Signed Postcards Given to Local MPP Urging Action to Support Ontario Adults With Severe Dental Problems

Today hundreds of signed ‘dental’ postcards depicting a far-from-perfect scene in Ontario were delivered to MPP Jeff Leal demanding support for adults with severe dental problems.

Members of Peterborough Public Health, Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network and Peterborough Social Planning Council (PSPC) delivered 600 postcards to Mr. Leal.  Over the past few months, local residents were asked to sign the postcards, urging the Ontario government to expand financial-support programs to include adults who cannot afford basic dental treatment.

“We’re really pleased at the support people in our community have shown us by signing the postcards and asking the Province to fill a serious gap in our health care system,” said Brenda Dales, PSPC Executive Director and spokesperson for the local campaign. 

In this area, hundreds of postcards were circulated as part of a province-wide advocacy campaign organized by the Ontario Oral Health Alliance, a group formed in 2007 to unite the voices of those who advocate for better access to oral health.  Thousands of the signed postcards have been collected across Ontario and are simultaneously being delivered this fall to Members of Provincial Parliament in all parts of the province.  

The campaign’s postcard features photos of five ‘real’ Ontarians with severe dental problems smiling through gritted teeth.  A caption below the pictures reads:  ‘Why am I living with pain and infection?’ On the back of the postcard, the Oral Health Alliance notes that thousands of Ontario adults suffer with pain and infection from poor oral health because they cannot afford to get regular dental treatment.  High costs and lack of dental insurance are some of the main barriers to care.

“Locally, we now have the public health infrastructure in place with both a downtown and mobile clinic to service adults suffering from severe dental pain if the province will cover their treatment,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health.  “We currently receive dozens of calls every month from local adults who need dental care and cannot afford it, so we know the need is great in our community.”

“People signed the postcards because they want Queen’s Park to fix a glaring omission that allows adults with severe dental pain and infection to suffer in silence,” noted Anna Rusak, chairperson of the Ontario Oral Health Alliance.

As far back as 2008, the provincial government committed to developing a program to pay dental costs for low-income families. Financial-assistance programs were created or expanded, but only to cover dental treatment for low-income children – not adults.  The result is that Ontario adults with severe dental problems who are unable to pay for care often have few options but to get treatment for pain at hospital emergency rooms.

“Is that the best use of our limited health care dollars?” Ms. Rusak asks.  “If we can fix and then prevent serious dental problems like severe toothaches and infection, we are saving money in the long run.”

A “strategic investment” in financial-support programs that cover the costs of treatment for Ontario adults with severe dental problems would pay off in other ways, she adds.  Research shows that poor oral health can lead to other health problems in a person down the road.  People with poor oral health can also suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence, making it more difficult for them to find meaningful employment so that they can leave social assistance.  According to Ms. Rusak:  “There are many benefits and cost-savings to be generated by improving access to dental care.”

In the coming months, members of the three local health and community service agencies and the Oral Health Alliance will follow-up with MPPs to call for action and ensure the message behind the dental postcards is not lost.  Local residents who want to find out more details can call 705-743-1000 or visit


For further information, please contact: 

Brittany Cadence
Communications Supervisor
705-743-1000, ext. 391