A new report presented to Hamilton’s Board of Health this week shows that low-income seniors are increasingly visiting emergency rooms for dental care.
The report outlines how just 40 per cent of Hamilton’s low-income seniors’ population is able to access regular dental care and just 23.5 per cent of those have insurance.
“Seniors living in low-income neighbourhoods in Hamilton are twice as likely to go to the emergency department for dental care [as seniors living in high-income areas],” a presentation accompanying the report points out.
“This is likely driven by very low rates of dental insurance coverage among low-income seniors.”
To put these numbers in perspective, of high-income Hamiltonians, 81.9 per cent receive regular dental care and 79.8 per cent have insurance to cover it.
Forty-seven per cent of Hamilton seniors have partial or full dentures that need to be replaced every five to 10 years.
“Population health data shows that poor oral health is common in Hamilton and has greater negative effects on the city’s most vulnerable populations, including seniors,” the Public Health report says.
“As people age, their oral health may become worse due to medications, medical conditions as well as mobility limitations that make good oral hygiene difficult to maintain. In addition, seniors may face barriers to accessing dental care due to cost, limited physical and cognitive abilities and transportation.”
The report, dated Oct. 18, 2019, asks the board to approve the hiring of more full-time employees to help in the city’s delivery of expanded oral health services.
Much of these services, previously funded 100 per cent by the City of Hamilton, is getting a more than $2 million funding boost from the Ontario government’s Ontario Seniors Dental Care
“Areas with low-income seniors are distributed across the city with higher numbers in the
lower west city, lower east city and central mountain,” the report says. “Proposed service locations are within a five-kilometre radius of the largest low-income population clusters in Hamilton.”
According to the report, poor oral health is linked to heart disease, respiratory disease, malnutrition and can have an impact on one’s sense of well-being.
With the expansion of public health services dedicated to oral health, will give more than “4,300 low-income seniors in Hamilton to access dental services. This includes the 1,000 eligible clients in long-term care homes and the expected 500 eligible seniors that can access denturist services.”