South Okanagan MP Richard Cannings wants to see dental coverage for all Canadians. (courtesy of Pixabay)

OPINION: South Okanagan MP fights for universal dental care

One in three Canadians have no dental coverage, with COVID making it even worse

In a move supported by 86 per cent of Canadians, South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings and fellow New Democrats urged the government recently to support their proposal to provide dental coverage to millions of Canadians who can’t afford a visit to the dentist.

The NDP plan is completely costed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer and would benefit 6.7 million people in Canada whose household income is less than $90,000 a year.

“Millions of Canadians don’t have any dental coverage and the situation has gotten even worse during the pandemic. So many Canadians have lost their workplace benefits and can’t afford to take care of their oral health with regular dental visits,” said Cannings.

“Canadians end up in the emergency room because of preventable dental problems. No one’s health should be compromised because they can’t afford the medical services they need to stay healthy.”

Right now, one in three Canadians don’t have dental coverage and more than one in five say the cost stops them from visiting a dentist. New Democrats are calling for the end of what they call the gross inequality in access to basic healthcare.

There are significant health and economic costs to the federal government’s inaction, stated Cannings. Left untreated, poor dental hygiene is linked to serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections and diabetic complications.

While emergency rooms across the country are struggling to meet the demand caused by COVID-19, every nine minutes in Ontario alone, someone visits an emergency room for dental pain, when what they really need is to see a dentist. The estimated cost of these visits across Canada is more than $150 million per year.

“This NDP initiative will give people without coverage help right now. Among the millions of Canadians who would benefit are precarious workers, self-employed people, young people without dental coverage and seniors across this country. This proposal will make a real difference in people’s lives and improve their overall health,” said Cannings.

READ ALSO: Penticton mayor urges Premier to step in over shelter dispute

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