The cost of visiting the dentist has been stopping some Manitobans and Canadians from getting their teeth checked, according to new data from Statistics Canada.
A new survey found 24 per cent of Canadians avoided the dentist in a 12-month period due to cost, that number was slightly lower in Manitoba at 21.2 per cent.
Those between the ages of 18 and 34 were the most likely in the country to avoid the dentist due to cost at 30.5 per cent, while women were slightly higher than men at 24.8 per cent compared to 22.3 per cent.
Dr. Scott Leckie, the president and chairman of the board for the Manitoba Dental Association, said it is concerning when people aren’t receiving the proper treatment due to cost.
“We would like everybody to be able to see your dentist because we know full well that good oral health means better total health as well,” said Leckie.
He pointed out that dentistry and health care in general have not been immune to the rising cost of life throughout the country.
“We know that the cost of health care has risen by 30 per cent since COVID,” he said. “Things like inflation, staffing costs have gone up, dental practice expenses, such as renting equipment, infection control and prevention, those are all contributing to the increase in fees.”
Despite cost concerns, Leckie said it’s important for Manitobans to know that there are steps that can be taken to lessen the cost of a dental visit.
“Manitoba dentists created a foundation on their own that also helps facilitate funds going into those that are underserved, the people that can’t afford dentistry.”
He said there are also provincial and federal programs that assist low-income individuals.
On top of that, four clinics in Winnipeg provide care for people who can’t always afford a dental visit – the Mount Carmel Clinic, the Access Clinic downtown, Siloam Mission and the University of Manitoba.
Dr. Anastasia Kelekis-Cholakis, the dean of the Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba, said it is always concerning to hear about people not accessing the dentist due to cost.
At the U of M, there are seven dental clinics which are used as teaching areas for students, but people can also receive care at a reduced price.
The care ranges from general dental work to orthodontics and even a sleep apnea clinic.
“All those clinics operate at about under 50 per cent of the Manitoba fee guide. So the treatment is not free, but it’s significantly discounted,” said Kelekis-Cholakis.
Appointments may take longer because they are being done by students, but Kelekis-Cholakis noted that patients become very knowledgeable when visiting.
“(Students) spend a lot of time explaining all the different treatment options. So the patients are well informed about the care they receive and the options that they do have.”
Also, when the school receives donations, Kelekis-Cholakis said that money can be used to support patients that are not able to afford much.
The College of Dentistry sees around 3,000 to 5,000 patients a year Kelekis-Cholakis said and students also do rotations at clinics in Deer Lodge, Access Clinic, and Churchill.
“We know that oral health care will affect overall health. Abscesses and infections can affect the overall health of an individual. So it’s extremely important (that everyone receives care).
“We want to be able to expand our outreach as much as possible.”
The data from Statistics Canada was collected between Feb. 9 and Dec. 31, 2022, and the sample represented people 12 and older in Canada.