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Growing up I was never one of the kids who left school early or came in late because I had a dentist appointment. From a young age I knew that dentist visits were very expensive and not a financial priority in my household. In short, we just couldn’t afford it.
When low-income families have rent, groceries, commuting, and other expenses it is very hard to prioritize or justify spending hundreds of dollars on dental care for themselves or their children. Yet dental care is important and has a very strong connection with our overall health.
According to research done by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research “An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.” This means that without regular visits to the dentist it can be almost impossible to determine whether you suffer from gum disease or any other oral health problems like Gingivitis, Periodontitis, or Trench mouth which if left unchecked can lead to more serious health problems.
Research shows that dental care is an important part of our health, yet it is privatized and not accessible for many people in our city. Seeing as we have universal health care it almost doesn’t make sense that dental care is not included under the OHIP umbrella. Here are some average costs, in Canadian dollars, for common dental procedures:
Large Tooth Filling: $325 Small Tooth Filling: $80 (Silver Filling), or $200 (White Filling) Root Canal: $800 Dental Crown: $1425 (Gold), or $1625 (Porcelain) Dental Bonding: $450 Invisalign Braces: $7, 249 Veneer: $1, 750 Adult Dental Exam: $133 Child Dental Exam: $67 Tooth Extraction: $136 (starting at)
Good dental health can be achieved with good oral hygiene, yet this does not prevent an overbite, teeth-grinding, wisdom teeth eruptions, the need for braces, or an injury.
My parents always taught my brother and I to practice good dental hygiene and luckily neither one of needed braces or suffered from any mouth injuries. However, this luck ran out when I was in University and my wisdom teeth started giving me issues. I could feel the teeth growing at the back of my mouth and it caused me a lot of pain and headaches. Through my University I had dental insurance, a mere $500 for a procedure that would cost in the thousands – the average wisdom teeth procedure for the extraction of all four teeth costs about $2300. This seems impossible when you are a student who is in school full time and trying to make ends meet.
It is easier to prioritise the cost of food, books, or commuting over oral surgery. Thankfully, I had a very nice and accommodating dentist who suggested I only take out one of my wisdom teeth (the one that was growing sideways and was causing the most discomfort) and he also suggested doing the procedure without being put to sleep. I was a bit afraid since most of the people I knew who had the procedure were put to sleep first and complained a lot about the recovery. The procedure was very comfortable even though I was awake and since I only pulled one tooth the recovery was quick. The tooth had already erupted so the procedure was quite simple
I did this over my undergrad two more times as my insurance would renew every September. It took some patience and a lot of Advil to combat the headaches and overall discomfort I would experience from time to time. It wasn’t until last year that I finally took out my last wisdom tooth when I found a job with a good insurance plan and did not have to pay out of pocket for the final procedure.
Recently, I also began grinding my teeth in my sleep which would lead to painful migraines as soon as I would wake up. If I wasn’t lucky enough to have my work insurance, it would be back to Advil and pain management. A mouthguard can cost anywhere between $300-$1000 dollars plus consultation fees. This is not a realistic expense for low-income families, let alone those with small children.
Universal dental care should be implemented in Canada especially for families and children who should not have to prioritize living costs over their health. Good oral hygiene only goes so far and we must consider all other issues that can not be prevented.
I love my child. But honestly, what I would love more than anything right now is something even close to a good night’s sleep.
Far too often, my nightly state of bliss, those precious and magical few hours where I can close my eyes and maybe, if I’m lucky, fall asleep, abruptly come to an end when I hear something loud and whiny.
To no one’s surprise, it was my son, crying. Oh Joy! It was 2:30 a.m., and I think: “I have to deal with this now. Goodbye sleep, hello crying child.”
I rushed over to his room, and a mixture of exhaustion and panic set in. “Maybe something is wrong, maybe he is hurt,” I thought. I picked him up and started asking him what was wrong. Obviously, my one year-old son couldn’t answer me yet, but I tried anyways.
When situations like this occur, my go-to solution is food – always food. I mean, if he is eating he can’t cry, right?! I was still completely exhausted, but I decided to take him into the kitchen and get him some food.
In the meantime, my son’s cries have now woken up my husband and I worried that because we live in an apartment, he may have woken up the neighbours as well – so I move even faster to take him to the kitchen.
My husband held him while I struggled to find something, anything, to feed him. Of course, my son wanted ME to hold him and as his crying got louder, I got more nervous.
I frantically rummaged through my refrigerator and I found two simple items, a yogurt and a mini muffin and I quickly presented them to him as a gift from me to him. He looked at them, then me, then again at the food and finally decided on the mini muffin.
“Thank goodness,” I said to my husband, and we both breathed a sigh of relief.
As my son rested on my shoulder finishing his muffin, his satisfied expression let us know that he was in the comfortable in the presence of his mommy and daddy. Even in the midst of exhaustion and worrying that I didn’t have enough strength to carry him, my toddler wrapped his arms as tight around me as he could, tucked his head under my chin and peacefully rested it on my chest.
Through these actions, he showed us that he knows we are always there to provide him comfort.
After that, we lay on the couch together, my son was on my chest, my husband was in the bedroom, already fast asleep, and soon enough, so were we.
We did it! Or should I say, I did it! Another “I love you mommy and daddy” moment.
These are the kinds of moments I think all parents need, just knowing that your kiddo loves and appreciates you makes it worth all of the (mostly) sleepless nights.
I must say that, despite all of this, I truly feel blessed to have a little one and to hear the words “momma… and dada…” come out of his mouth.