Spirit Quest on dental care

Spirit Quest

Putting your teeth into it

Dental care should be avalable under Medicare

By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective

My son Stephen is an excellent mimic. Not only is he able to reproduce the sound of animals like the roar of an elephant which he experienced during his years in Africa, but the voices of people. He is also able to reproduce the sound of machines, and to my chagrin the distinctive whine of the dentist’s drill. Facing some extensive dental work his mimicry can send chills down my spine. Nor am I alone in  experiencing this phobia.

My aversion to the dentist goes back a long way. When I was in grade one in my first school in Czechoslovakia our whole class early in the year was marched off downtown to the dental clinic where the condition and needs of our teeth were attended to. I did not enjoy this visit. I overheard one of my classmates describe the sounds of my encounter with that of an ox on a spit — a bit of an exaggeration to be sure, but protest I undoubtedly did.

A year before our sudden departure from our homeland, mother unbeknownst of our fate had all the necessary dental work done, fillings and a bridge with gold inlay. It was done so well that it  virtually lasted her a lifetime. Our town had a state of the art clinic that included all facets of dentistry. Her visits were carefully recorded in her diary which I treasure as a family archival possession.

Little did we know as we departed that this blessed land that would receive us was a backwater as far as dentistry was concerned. Undoubtedly conditions were better in the cities but out in the sticks of northern Saskatchewan it was primitive to non existent.

My first dentist was our neighbour who had come to Canada with us. She extracted several of my teeth with a pair of pliers for the price of one egg, same cost as a haircut.

Dentistry has come a long way. One of the members of my Toronto United Church congregation was the highly esteemed Dr. Roy Ellis who established the first dental clinic north of the Arctic Circle. The dental school on the Toronto University campus, Ellis Hall, was named after him.

When our congregation sponsored a family of eleven people from Laos a member of our congregation, also a dentist, undertook to repair the teeth of our refugees, gratis. It was a great deal of work as you can appreciate but he considered it as his Christian duty.

It is my firm belief that dental care, pivotal as it is to good general health, ought to be part of medicare as it was in my homeland. However, the chances of that happening seem slight inasmuch as Medicare is itself under attack and may not survive the move to privatization, abetted by the Fraser Institute and other right wing institutions. Canadians ought to be vigilant of the wonderful medical services that are available to us. They ought to be expanded to included pharmacare and dentistry. Your health ought not to be dependent on the size of your pocket book.

We are fortunate in our home to have the service of charming woman from the Philippines. Maria (not her real name) is an exceptionally hard and diligent worker who combines her duties here with that of maid service at a hotel. She has little spare time or cash.

She has a teenage daughter back home whom she is trying to sponsor and bring to Canada where she would receive a better education and hope for a good job. She thus has to scrounge all available funds which includes the neglect of her dental work. Undoubtedly it will have negative repercussions down the road.

I may not look forward to my oncoming bout with the dentist. My private insurance will cover part of the cost. Why should it be less important than oncology or cardiology which is undertaken with no financial questions asked?

The people of our land need to be vigilant. We have too precious a heritage to take it for granted .