Sugary foods, lack of fluoride and poor economy blamed for increase in tooth decay in Calgary

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Sugary foods, lack of fluoride and poor economy blamed for increase in tooth decay in Calgary
WATCH ABOVE: A free dental clinic that was held in northwest Calgary on Sunday was packed with Calgarians who haven’t been able to afford dental care. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, dentists running the clinic says a combination of Calgary’s jobless numbers and the elimination of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water are causing health problems for people living here – May 7, 2017

The waiting room was packed at Beacon Smiles Dental Clinic in Calgary’s Northwest Sunday.

The dental clinic provided free exams, tooth removal and children’s cleanings for families who applied.

Staff at the clinic said it’s all about helping the working poor and families that fall through the cracks because they don’t qualify for social assistance.

“One thing that we are noticing, especially with the economy, there’s lots of our patients who are struggling to get work done that needs to be done. Things that can avoid infection and things that will affect their health,” Dr. Amrita Sandhu-Gill said.

“They simply can’t afford even the co-pay with insurance. You have a certain amount of money, you have a family to feed and not all that money can go towards dental work,” Dr. Sandhu-Gill. “So there are parents who are in pain because of dental issues, who are not paying for it because they need to feed the kids.”

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Dentists at the clinic said two other factors are causing dental problems among Calgary children.  According to Dr. Sandhu-Gill, with the elimination of fluoride in Calgary’s drinking water, she has seen more decay in children.

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Dr. Sandhu-Gill said they are focusing on educating parents about the importance of avoiding processed food and sugars.

“Since 2011, there’s definitely a lot more [decay]….we are seeing. The issue is that diet is not changing, so fluoride helps prevent decay when you’re eating processed foods and sugary foods. When you take out the fluoride and you are still eating and drinking high sugar content foods, we’re not solving the issue there,” Dr. Sandhu-Gill said.

Amy MacLeod moved from New Brunswick to Alberta and was shocked by how much more dental costs are in Calgary.

“We have not been to the dentist in three years or four years. Just can’t afford [the] thousands of dollars it’s going to cost to have our teeth cleaned,” MacLeod said while at the clinic with her three children.

Last year, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association found that fees are higher in Alberta and have been rising faster than any other provinces.

Alberta’s Liberal leader David Swann doesn’t believe a fee guide would necessarily be effective but providing dental care to more people who can’t afford it, would be.

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“We have a growing population, we have an increasing divide between rich and poor. We need to increase the resources for people with low income,” Swann said. “It’s just out of the realm of possibility for many low income families.”

There are also calls to allow dentists to advertise and offer dental promotions.

The Alberta government plans to release a dental fee guide this year to help patients better compare prices.

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