Health: Dental Care In Canada

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By Dale Sproule

What did Pharoah Amenhotep III, Queen Elizabeth I of England and John Glascock of the rock band Jethro Tull have in common? All three died as a result of abscessed teeth.

Canada has a world famous universal health care system, but unfortunately, it does not include dental care. Unless you are on a dental plan through your place of employment, or are covered through Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program, getting a tooth fixed will cost you money.

How much money depends on the service you need. Most Ontario dentists follow the fee schedule set out by the Ontario Dental Association’s Suggested Fee Guide. The cost of fillings can range from $40 to $200 depending on the complications and the materials used. Extractions (having a tooth pulled) usually cost between $70 and $150. Fees are usually a bit lower for children and seniors. And more complicated procedures like dental crowns and root canals can be much more expensive.

But not getting that tooth fixed could cost you even more. In the 21st century it is unusual for anyone in North America to die of anything as simple and treatable as a tooth abscess, but it does happen. And even if you don’t die, you can suffer so much pain that you wished you could just end it all.

While most adults can tolerate the pain of a toothache for a surprising length of time, children are usually not as strong. If you have a child who can’t stop crying, it will often result in an urgent trip to the dentist’s office.

The Ontario Ministry of Health has a program called CINOT (Children in Need of Treatment), which covers emergency dental costs for residents of Ontario (children of visa students are not eligible) aged 13 and younger. To qualify, you must have no dental insurance or any other form of dental coverage and you have to prove that the cost of providing the necessary care would create financial hardship. Children who are entitled to dental benefits under the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program are entitled to CINOT coverage. For more information, call your local Public Health Unit or regional health department.

If you don’t have a dental plan, talk to your dentist about payment options to help you manage the cost of your treatment. Most dentists will let you pay in installments or come up with some other way to make it easier for you to pay. Altima Dental Care has over 20 offices in Southern Ontario and offers 0 percent financing on approval of credit. They charge no interest but require a 10 percent deposit and charge a fee to process your application. This is a good offer, but for new immigrants with no credit rating in Canada, it may be wiser not to apply, since you’ll be charged the application fee but won’t qualify for the plan.

It can pay to shop around and ask questions. Dentists like Dr. Roque de Freitas sometimes do simple dental work free for refugees and people on social assistance. And there are other dentists like him.

Finding a dentist is easy. Dr. Earl Magder of Curity Dental Care on O’Connor Drive in East York suggests that the very best way to find a dentist is to ask your friends, co-workers or workers at any immigrant serving agency. Everyone needs dental care and if they have a dentist they like, they will be happy to refer you. “Almost all dentist offices and clinics accept new patients,” says Dr. Magder.

Finding a dentist through referrals can even guide you to a dentist who speaks your language. If you can’t find someone to recommend a dentist, you can call the Toronto Academy of Dentistry at 416-967-5649. If you live anywhere else in Ontario, you can call 416-922-3900. Wherever you live in Ontario, you can visit the Ontario Dental Association’s online Find-a-Dentist search engine at www.oda.on.ca/pub_168.asp. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario offers a free Source Guide for Dentists in pdf format on their website www.rcdso.org.

Of course, everyone should get regular dental check-ups and get your teeth cleaned, but until you can work those costs into your budget, you may be able to avoid dental work altogether by taking good care of your teeth and gums. Across Canada, water treatment includes fluoridation, which helps fight cavities.

Dr. Magder observed that as more people switch to drinking bottled water, they are also getting more cavities. So drinking tap-water does have some benefits. The best way to prevent cavities is to floss and brush your teeth every day with a quality toothpaste. Not only is prevention less painful and less expensive than emergency treatment, a sparkling smile can help you make a good impression at your next job interview.

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