With the escalating Smile With Dignity campaign, the demand for dental services to be covered under the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) is attracting attention and supporters from across the province. In early December, the BC Nurses’ Union invited campaign organizers to participate in their Human Rights and Diversity conference. We presented our campaign at one of the conference sessions, inviting nurses to share their experiences with dental care in their practice. As nurses work on the frontlines of health care provision in our communities, they know firsthand the important role of oral health for overall health and wellbeing. Nurses spoke of the challenges of treating patients in longterm care with only sporadic access to a dentist. Others described patients with serious health complications that are made worse by lack of access to dental treatment. Even nurses themselves were affected by the inaccessibility of dental services. Janete Lois shared her story:
“I am a retired nurse. I am also a Diabetic. I need my teeth cleaned at least two times a year. Even with my extended coverage, I still have to pay $45.00 from my pocket to have my teeth cleansed!”
Nurses gave their support to the campaign by signing the Smile With Dignity petition and contributing personal dental stories or stories of their work. They are also helping to raise awareness of the campaign among their colleagues, patients, and networks in their home communities. As dental services and the MSP is a provincial issue, engaging with nurses and communities from across the province will ensure that voices and concerns from outside of Vancouver are also represented in our campaign.