Island woman urges faster access to low income dental care

A Prince Edward Island woman who’s lost all her top teeth says she still hasn't received treatment, four years after applying to a community program for low income families.

Candice Gregory says she applied to program four years ago and is still waiting

A Prince Edward Island woman who’s lost all her top teeth says she still hasn't received the dental treatment she needs, four years after applying to a community program for low income families.

The Community Dental Services Program started six years ago as a pilot project, one the P.E.I. health department says has continued due high demand.

When Candice Gregory applied, she said she was initially told it would be a year before she could be seen.

Instead, she says she's been waiting four and still hasn’t been called for an appointment, even though her husband got one in a year.

“I was literally spitting out my teeth,” she said. “And she just said I’d have to wait until my name came up on the list.”

Gregory said her gums receded so quickly, she had to borrow money to pay for oral surgery. Now she’s trying to save money to have her teeth replaced.

The 50-year-old woman said she’s been left humiliated without her teeth, hardly leaving her Belle River home anymore.

"I feel degraded, a second class citizen because I can't afford to go out and get my teeth," she said.

The program is meant to treat islanders with a combined annual family income of less than $22,000.

The director of public health said 685 people have used the program since it started, and the wait list is about two years.

"In terms of an emergency situation, we may be able to respond to people quicker, however, for the most part it is on a first come, first serve basis," Kathy Jones said.

Many of the people who use the program need a fair degree of dental work, she said. Patients are first examined and assessed, and then have their dental work completed.

Health P.E.I. didn't speak specifically to Gregory's case, but in a follow-up email said, "Health PEI can not discuss any particular cases, however, our records indicate that since the program started clients have not waited longer than 2 years for service." 

The email went on to say, "It is also important to recognize that this service is run with limited resources and Health PEI stresses the need for both clients and service providers to be as flexible as possible, especially considering some appointments are arranged through a cancellation list and may be available on short notice."

Gregory, however, is positive she's been on the list for four years and hasn't been offered an appointment.

Health P.E.I. said the program will be reviewed over the next few months because it knows it is not meeting demand.