For participants of the People’s Health Series, here is the outline for this coming week!

In this session of the people’s health series, participants:

  1. Use the framework of the ‘Smile with Dignity’ campaign of the APH to share experiences with dental care and analyze the connections between poverty and poor dental health as well as the connection between dental health and overall health.
  2. Examine the class structure of Canada and the forces involved in the dental care industry; discuss “who benefits and who loses from private insurance and dental care provision?”
  3. Plan a public event/action a part of the ‘Smile with Dignity’ Campaign to include dental care under the current Medical Services Plan.

Wealth and Poverty in Canada

While we live in one of the richest and most developed countries in the world, the economic status of the people is grossly unequal based on what economic class one belongs to and whether or not one is a wage earner, a professional, or a corporate executive.  Consider that “In 2005, the average net worth of the poorest 20% of Canadians was a debt of $2,400 – while the average net worth of the richest fifth was $1,264,200” (Inequality fact sheet).  Consider that “Inequality in Canada is growing faster than in other countries. Inequality between rich and poor in Canada has grown more than in any other OECD country in the last decade except for Germany” (Inequality Fact Sheet).  Finally, consider that “Vancouver is more unequal than other Canadian cities:  Of 24 cities in Canada, Vancouver has the largest and fastest growing income gap between rich and poor” (Inequality Fact Sheet).

What does this have to do with oral health?

The condition of our teeth and of our oral health is a direct result of our economic class.  The Canadian Dental Association defines oral health as “a state of the oral and related tissues and structures that contribute positively to physical, mental and social well-being and to the enjoyment of life’s possibilities, by allowing the individual to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment.

And yet despite the obvious importance of oral health to overall health and well-being, dental care is not included in our social wage, those public services provided by the government from tax dollars to supplement the wages of working class families.  Since dental care is not covered by MSP, working class people wait until there is trouble to access dental care.  This means that working class people are far more likely to suffer: loss of teeth, chronic infections, chronic pain and all its many complications, as well as an increased incidence of some chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  We also know first-hand that poor oral and dental health impacts our: self-esteem and sense of self-worth, employment, access to education, nutrition and the pleasure of eating, emotional expression, communication and relationships, participation in community activities, quality of life, and our sense of human dignity.

Materials for this session:

  1. Read the APH website on the ‘Smile with Dignity’ Campaign and review the “Tool Kit for Organizers”
  2. Review the presentation: Waiting for Pain: The State of Working Class Oral Health
  3. Consider your own dental health, and the dental health of your family and your community

Additional Resources: 

  1. Bruce Wallace and the Cool Aid Society on the situation in BC and alternatives
  2. What is available from MSP?
  3. Healthy Kids Program