42% of Hamilton’s Grade 2 Children Have History of Tooth Decay, Medical Officer of Health States in Oral Health Report

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Thousands of Hamiltonians don’t have access to dental coverage, and both they and their children are suffering from serious oral health ailments as a result, Hamilton’s Medical of Officer of Health states in a report to Council this week.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson says the lack of access to dental care means thousands of Hamiltonians are forced to suffer from oral health issues such as tooth decay until they become a medical emergency requiring intervention at local hospitals; often tooth extraction and treatment for related ailments that get covered by OHIP.

Statistics are particularly bleak for thousands of children who require tooth removal each year from day surgery units at local hospitals, and the situation is worsening.

Dr. Richardson says public health dental staff screened 17,122 elementary students in the 2016/17 school year; 1471 kids needed urgent dental care, another 3244 needed preventive dental care.

The statistics for Grade 2 students are very concerning, 42% have a history of tooth decay, 1 in 10 “require urgent dental care”, and nine schools report “very high rates of untreated cavities”.

42% of Grade 2 students have a history of tooth decay, 1-in-10 Grade 2 students require urgent dental care, and nine of our schools – the majority of them in the Lower City – have “very high rates of untreated cavities”.

There’s another trend the report is revealing, as the Lower City gentrifies as Real Estate Investment Trusts drive up rental rates, lower income families are being forced to move into the poorly serviced suburbs.

City of Hamilton Public Health Division

Map of oral day surgeries among children and youth in Hamilton (cases per 100,000 population) using the patients’ residential postal code (3-year mean; 2014-2016). Data Source: Ambulatory Emergency External Cause [2014-2016], Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, IntelliHEALTH ONTARIO, Date Extracted: [11 Oct 2017].

A map (above) in the report shows that postal code L9A is now seeing the same number of children requiring oral day surguries at Hamilton’s hospitals as our poorer Lower City neighbourhoods.

Dr. Richardson says her public health division is working to expand their free dental programs to serve more patients each year; and expand the availability of preventative dental care.

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