Getting dental problems out of the emergency room requires better funding, says dental association
Dental patients are seen 61,000 times in the emergency room each year
More than 60-thousand patients a year are seen in the emergency room — for dental treatment that should be provided in a dentist's office.
The Ontario Dental Association said there needs to be more funding provided to dentists, which would make emergency rooms more efficient.
According to Dr. David Stevenson, president of the ODA, no dental treatment is possible in a hospital situation.
"They don't have the facilities to do that," said Stevenson. "At best they get an antibiotic and a painkiller."
Stevenson estimates $40 million a year is spent seeing these patients, and the ODA is asking for that funding to be redirected to private dental practices and government dental programs.
One of the programs already in place, called Healthy Smiles Ontario, connects children with dentists when needed.
"Of the 545,000 children eligible to be seen, about half of them are not getting the treatment or care they need," said Stevenson about Healthy Smiles Ontario. He attributes that to both a lack of funding and a lack of awareness.
"The government is not promoting the programs properly," said Stevenson.
Dentists often volunteer their time and their expertise for programs like Healthy Smiles, said Stevenson.
"If the program were properly funded, we could change that."
The ODA "feels the government's energy and resources are used best if targeted to those who need it the most," said Stevenson, adding that the majority of Ontarians have access to dental care — it's the gaps that need funding.
According to Stevenson, there's been no increase to hospital dental funding for ten years.