Campaign for dental care hits the streets of Vancouver

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      Last evening while walking through Mount Pleasant, I stumbled across some authentic community organizing.

      I spotted a woman dancing on the corner of East Broadway and Kingsway wearing a sandwich-board-size sign shaped like a giant tooth. It said: "Dental Care Is a Human Right."

      It's part of a grassroots campaign by the Alliance for People's Health to get dental care covered under the Medical Services Plan of B.C.

      The street dancer, Melanie Spence, was attracting attention so that people would approach the corner. Her compatriots in the campaign, Azar Mehrabadi and Jannie Leung, were collecting people's stories about their oral health and lack of access to dental care. They're also getting people to sign petitions.

      I even shared my tale of not going to the dentist for many years in my late teens and early to mid-20s because it seemed too expensive.

      Spence told me that their "Smile With Dignity" campaign is aimed at having both basic preventive and restorative care covered under medicare.

      She said that they launched this after conducting a "community-diagnosis session" in Mount Pleasant. That's when people kept telling them that a lack of dental care was a huge health concern.

      "It's an issue that affects not just your oral health, but your physical health," Spence noted. "The reason why we call it our 'Smile With Dignity' campaign is because it also affects your sense of human dignity and belongingness. People who don't have all their teeth or who feel badly about their teeth have told us that they can't get a job, feel embarrassed in a lot of social situations, and, in addition, they can't get the proper nutrition that they need. So it does lead to a lot of other health problems."

      Melanie Spence describes the "Smile With Dignity" campaign.

      This is where the community organizing enters the picture. People who share stories have the option of allowing them to be posted online.

      Spence said that members of the alliance want to know the issues well so that "when we do take that message to the government, we know that we have a lot of popular support."

      If he were alive today, the great American community organizer, Saul Alinsky, would be impressed.



      Standing Water BA LLD MBA

      Jul 30, 2011 at 10:05am

      Great idea, but given that welfare rates are at, more or less, starvation levels, it seems unlikely that dental care for all is in the pipeline---I think the real motivation is to have people's teeth fall out, so that their lack of money for food isn't so noticeable.


      Jul 30, 2011 at 10:31am

      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Good universal basic dental care provision will save society money and promote progress in the end. In the meantime, I recommend that everyone cease consuming all sugary products (that is good not only for teeth, but for health in general) and to brush teeth regularly with a soft brush and a flouride free toothpaste. Floss daily. And most importantly, kill oral bacteria daily by flushing your mouth for a few minutes each night before sleeping with a mouthfull of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution.


      Jul 30, 2011 at 12:03pm

      Since teeth have become such a major vanity issue (extreme whitening, celebs with implants), more should be done to bring tooth equality to everyone, or else we risk creating an unnecessary lower class. Imagine if your in a freak accident and you get you front teeth smashed out! In today's world your pretty much doomed socially, so you gotta spend tens of thousands of dollars to smile again! It should be a right in this day and age!


      Jul 30, 2011 at 12:50pm

      It's about time it came under the health care. After reading the story in two papers last spring about the number of snow birds having their dental looked after by going into Mexico where the dentists are american trained and having the work done at half the price it makes me wonder just why the costs are so high here. One root canel on a molar is 1700.00 for just over 11/2 hr. Seems high to me and if it weren't for a dental plan under my wife's work I wouldn't be getting it done which in the end would end up in the ER for teatment and cost the system a lot more. It's not right that not everyone can afford dental.


      Jul 30, 2011 at 4:38pm

      I'm so glad to see this issue being covered. I find it astounding that Canadians can pretend we have universal healthcare when it doesn't cover dental work (or vision, for that matter). Going to the ER to get your problem tooth/teeth pulled, because you can't afford basic preventative and restorative care in the first place, is not an adequate solution. As any dentist will attest, getting a tooth pulled should be an absolute last resort.

      As I like to tell friends and travellers from other countries when they ask about our healthcare, who the hell needs their eyes and teeth anyway?

      dread nugent

      Jul 31, 2011 at 9:51am

      By all means .. help the truly needy .... but for the rest of us ...base it on verified income ... if people would rather have an I Phone 4-5-6 .. or eat out 3 times a week ... make payments on an SUV when they could get by on a Hyundai ... then income testing must apply ..unfortunately people cannot be counted on to be personally responsible with income and do the right things with what they have . .... the other solution is to triple BC Health premiums to cover it all ...

      People united will never be defeated!

      Jul 31, 2011 at 12:03pm

      Denying that teeth are part of our bodies, and so should not be part of healthcare, is ridiculous.

      Surely if this very worthwhile campaign is pressed, resistance to including dental care in our healthcare system will be overcome.


      Jul 31, 2011 at 7:48pm

      I think that there are a lot of different factors in this issue, but I think that we also have to consider the arguments people give that involve economics. A lot of people say that it costs too much and that our country cant afford it without raising taxes. I think it is important to realize that if people do not have "presentable" enough teeth they cant get work, and the economy loses money it would have gained through taxes and the people spending money on goods and services. Additionally, our country would spend money on emergency room visits to extract teeth that would have been cheaper to clean. Complications arising from poor health -some due to dental health- costs money to treat, especially the more serious conditions.
      Of course, this all neglects the more concern worthy issues of human dignity and quality of life. Everyone deserves to have access to the basic human necessities.

      People united will never be defeated!

      Jul 31, 2011 at 11:14pm

      One other comment worth making is that there is a toothbrush called a Sulcabrush. It's sort of a mini-brush, the use of which is just as good as a professional cleaning. It's especially good for cleaning the gum line and so lessen the chance of gum disease. Most ordinary toothbrushes, although they remove most of the plaque, always seem to leave behind a layer of it which just seems to be burnished by the brush. A sulcabrush will remove all of it, and will even remove tartar if you scrub hard enough.


      Aug 2, 2011 at 9:33am

      Just wanted to comment - GOOD JOB - it is time for Dental Care to be accessible and affordable by all individuals. In Saskatchewan and on Federal reserves across Canada (and in other countries) there are Dental Therapists who are trained to take care of basic restorative and prevention needs for all ages. BC could look in to this form - Dental Therapists are not trying to take business and money away from Dentists, we just want to help with the problems and work with all Dental auxilaries to make Oral Health better for ALL Canadians.