FREE Dental Care Day Dilemma
Our community Dentists every December hold a FREE Dental Care Day. From 8:30 am to 1 pm, one day a year, a few dentists open their clinics and offer FREE fillings, extractions, and cleanings. It is a first-come, first-served event.
Needing The Service Myself
For myself, in need of this service, I decided to try and get one of the coveted spots this year.
My husband, Barry, and I arrived at one of the participating dentist offices before 8 am. As we got to the door we discovered 3 ladies already in line. I was relieved. Good, we didn’t arrive too late.
I desperately needed to get my molar fixed. I’ve been babying it along now for 2 years. Yes, for 2 years, I’ve needed to have a filling.
My Tooth Story
The cavity, even with my careful brushing and flossing, has continued to grow. Now it is starting to stink and I know how this is going to end up because 5 years ago there was another such tooth. Unfortunately, I was unable to see a dentist in time to save that one. In November, 2011, it got to the extreme aching stage which resulted in an emergency visit to a dentist. That visit confirmed the state of my tooth. It cost $500 to have it pulled.
Now I have another tooth quickly accelerating in that direction too. The last tooth put dire financial distress on my husband and I. Here we are again—facing a financial dilemma. Neither can we afford to pay a dentist to fill this tooth now, nor pay to have it pulled later.
What to do?
We stand in line for the FREE Dental Care Day.
Standing In Line
These ladies in front of us explain that when they arrived at 7:30 am that there already was a lineup. In fact, the first 12 people have already been let in, 4 people at a time, to assess their need of dental care and determine the amount of time needed for them.
What? Twelve people are already inside? That means I’m #16, not #4 as I had hoped.
By 8:10 am, the kind, sweet receptionist came to the door to let us know that they only had room for the next 2 ladies in front of me. She also told us that the other dentists in town participating were also now full this morning.
I looked behind me as I prepared to leave to see some 15-20 people standing there.
Suddenly, I realized this must be the same scene at the other 2 dental offices in town.
Do The Math
Quickly doing the math, that meant that on this cold, sub-zero December morning, some estimated 60-75 people such as I were going to miss out on Dental Care again this year.
How Long Had They Camped Out?
As people came out of the dentist office knowing what time they had to return for that precious appointment they had just secured, I noticed something. Almost all of those first 12 people were holding fold up chairs, blankets, and quilts.
How long had they camped out in front of the dental office in the below zero temperatures in the snow? Remember, the ladies I met in line said they themselves had arrived at 7:30 am to find those 12 people in front of them.
As Barry and I were driving away, more cars pulled up to the dental office and people frantically running up the stairs. Sadly, I knew what they would be told:
“Sorry, there is no more room.”
A Mix Of Emotions
I was filled with mixed emotions.
- Happiness for the 14 people who got in at this dental office and the similar numbers that got in elsewhere. An estimated 45 people in our community were going to be helped.
- Disappointment at not getting my own rotting tooth fixed.
- Fear of the Stress this would put on my husband. Love him, but the financial stress quite often triggers his epileptic seizures. (In fact, as I was up writing the rough draft of this post this morning, that is what happened—Barry had a seizure. He is now in bed sleeping, probably for the next 6-8 hours while I type this into my laptop) That is why for 2 years, knowing our financial situation, I did not let him know how bad my tooth was getting. I have dental floss hidden all over the house so I can pick at the food caught in it secretly. But now, he knows, and he’s going to worry. Why couldn’t we get one of the FREE spots so my husband wouldn’t have to worry? Why Lord? Barry desperately needs to see a dentist too. I know that his teeth are falling apart—I’ve seen him spitting out chunks of his teeth as they get so rotten and snap off in pieces.
- Realization was another emotion as I became more aware of this FREE Dental Care Day Dilemma. Well over 100 people had braved the cold, bad driving conditions, and snow. All of us with similar situations and stories. I recognized faces in the crowd with us. Yes, I know enough of their stories to know they needed to be there too.
What Is The Age Group Mostly Represented?
The age group represented was hugely those of us 45 years of age and older. Yes, there were younger adults too, but the majority of us were clearly older.
When Did They See A Dentist Last?
How long since most of us have been able to afford the services of a dentist? Myself, it has been 17 years since I last had my teeth cleaned and before that it had been 8 years, and before that is was 10 years. So let’s calculate that. In the past 35 years, my teeth have been cleaned 3 times.
Thankfully, Jesus blessed me with better teeth than most. In fact, that tooth that needed pulling in 2011 was my first cavity ever. TRUE. However, now being over 50 years of age, I realize the old body is not the same anymore and that includes my teeth.
But what of those people who don’t have good teeth? Like my husband? Or like your neighbor or even you?
A Huge And Escalating Problem
This FREE Dental Care Day Dilemma became suddenly very clear and real to me. There is a very huge need in our community. What about your community? I’m sure our area isn’t alone in this dilemma.
Health Authorities have told us over the years that proper dental care can impact many areas of our general health. Suddenly I see so many of us unable to receive this proper dental care.
Who Are These People Who Can’t Afford Dental Care?
This list may surprise you a bit. Not everyone in most need are on a Social Assistance Program. Many are actually business owners and full-time employees. Working people.
- Self-employed business people, who can’t afford to pay for extra insurance coverage over all the other operating costs of running your own business. This is the category, Barry and I fall in.
- Seniors receiving Old Age Pensions
- Adult ODSP Recipients (Ontario Disability Support Plan). Now it is my understanding that Adults on ODSP have these basic dental needs covered, however, I’m hearing more reports of this group being refused service by area dentists. Reason unknown.
- Adults on Ontario Works-Social Assistance. This is not new. Their children have basic dental coverage, but the adults do not have coverage. When I was on Social Assistance some 21 years ago, I was told I could not receive dental care unless I was in extreme pain. Then an emergency procedure would be allowed. But no pain, no dental care.
- And Minimum Wage Earners—those workers may be full or part time, but do not have any benefit coverage programs through their workplace.
More than 60% of the families in our town, according to the 2012 Census information, reportedly live on an annual income of LESS THAN $30,000/year. With basic housing costs eating up 50-75% of their monthly income—you can quickly see that when you still have to buy food—there is no money left over.
Dentists—A NEED? Or A WANT?
So going to a Dentist quickly gets shifted from the NEEDS list to the WANTS list. Read more about determining NEEDS vs WANTS here.
What Do We Do?
Now that this FREE Dental Care Day Dilemma has been identified—what are we, as communities, going to do about it?
Yes, some 45 people did receive assistance this year in our community, but what of the other 100 and more who did not?
Free Dental Care Days More Often?
Barry even stated that if once a month a dentist, year round, offered a FREE Dental Care morning—the need could NOT BE MET. So what can be done?
This basic dental need for adults is huge and growing every year.
What can we do? Please comment and join in this discussion. How can we provide basic dental care to everyone.
This is not a bright white smiling situation. A need has been identified—how can we fix it?