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Board meeting notes June 17, 2015

Jun 26, 2015
The growing number of senior citizens who can’t afford urgent dental care has prompted the Simcoe Muskoka Board of Health to ask why dental care is not included in Ontario’s universal health care program. At their June meeting the board requested a report from health unit staff exploring ways of bringing the issue forward to the provincial government.

“Wave of urgent dental care” among seniors: health unit   

The growing number of senior citizens who can’t afford urgent dental care has prompted the Simcoe Muskoka Board of Health to ask why dental care is not included in Ontario’s universal health care program. At their June meeting the board requested a report from health unit staff exploring ways of bringing the issue forward to the provincial government.

Good dental health practices are helping the general population, but there is a shift in the appearance of untreated cavities from children to older adults. Heather Murray, supervisor of oral health programs at the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, explained that seniors on fixed incomes that border on low-income status often avoid costly dental care until it becomes an emergency. “Many seniors have urgent dental problems and the magnitude is only going to increase,” she said.

The board of health learned that, over the last five years, hospital emergency departments have seen a rise in visits from people 65 years of age and older for urgent treatment for their teeth. Colleen Nisbet, the director of clinical service at the health unit, said poor oral health makes chewing and swallowing difficult, contributing to weight loss. Dental infections are associated with increased risk of pneumonia and cardiovascular disease and are directly linked to diabetes. Nisbet pointed out that the cost of dental care insurance can be as high as $250 to $300 a month. While some social assistance programs exist, and there are some private foundations that can assist seniors, it is not enough to meet all the needs. Muskoka’s senior population in 2014 was 93,300. Of those, about 6,500 were living in long-term care or retirement homes.

New screening tool for parents introduced

The health unit is adopting a tool to help parents of toddlers and preschoolers gauge how their children’s eating habits are progressing.

Nutri-STEP is a screening questionnaire that takes about five minutes to complete. It’s being made available for parents so they can evaluate their child’s healthy food intake, eating habits and physical activity and get help when they have concerns. It will also be of value to the health unit in developing greater understanding of the nutritional needs of toddler and preschool aged children in the region. It’s known that children in the 18 month-to-5-year range are establishing eating habits that could last a lifetime, and that food choices affect a child’s growth and development, learning skills and health behaviour. The NutriSTEP program will be implemented over several years, with staff training just starting. Local health care providers in a family health team will pilot the screening tool with their patients. 

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place September 16 at 9:15 a.m. 
in the Gravenhurst office, at 25 Pineridge Gate.



News releases are stored here dating back to spring 2005. Earlier news releases are maintained in an archive and can be retrieved by calling the health unit during business hours.

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