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Langs senior dental program is saving residents thousands on dental bills

Langs Community Health Centre offers free dental care to seniors, saving their wallets a painful trip to the dentist
Lyn Murphy (left), minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Cambridge MP Bryan May talk with other residents about Canadian senior dental coverage

For some Cambridge residents, the fear of sitting in front of a dentist is not the only obstacle between them and healthy teeth and gums. 

For seniors like Lyn Murphy who live on a fixed income, the financial burden of something as simple as a teeth cleaning can be overwhelming. 

"For us seniors, we need to get into the dentist more often and that can really add up," said Murphy. 

Langs Community Health Centre . Joe McGinty/CambridgeToday

Murphy is a resident at the Fairview Mennonite Home and has been using the Ontario Seniors Dental Program at Langs, saving thousands of dollars. 

"It took me well over six months to get into it, but it's better than paying over $1,500 a year just on cleanings." 

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDC) offers seniors free cleaning, x-rays, teeth removal and pain relief. 

According to numbers released by the region, 5398 appointments have been completed for seniors accessing the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program in Waterloo region in 2022 and 2023.

There are currently only two clinics in the region that offer this program with a third on its way with new funding from regional council. 

Over $285,000 was divided between three clinics in the region to reduce the massive wait times in the program.

The region notes that due to this partnership, the wait list was reduced from 21 to 24 months in the first half of 2023, to 14 to 16 months by the end of 2023; calling it a "significant achievement."

Malcolm Stephens, another senior who waited over a year to get into the program at Langs said he was able to get a tooth pulled that was causing him pain for over a decade. 

"I had this tooth in the back that was hurting for the better part of the last 10 years," recalled Stephens. "While it took me a long time to get in, I'd say it was a small price to pay to get this issue resolved." 

He notes that if not for this program, he would have left the tooth in there, possibly causing more damage to himself in the process. 

Also being on a fixed income, Stephens had to make the choice of being able to eat or get his rotting tooth removed. 

Cambridge MP Bryan May was at Fairview Mennonite Home last week speaking with seniors about the federal government's plan to add dental care to OHIP, starting with seniors. 

He recalled speaking with a woman who was having a "runaway nerve" that was travelling from her tooth up her head, close to her brain. 

"She went into a dentist and they said that if she got this root canal performed it would be thousands of dollars," said May. "They actually told her to wait until it got closer to her brain and then OHIP would cover it as a brain surgery." 

The doctors at Langs got her into a chair and pulled the tooth free of charge. May added that the woman even got some of her eyesight back, because the runaway nerve was making contact with the nerves in her eye. 

"I feel like this speaks volumes to the amazing work that Langs is doing with this program, but this is the issue; there is only one Langs," said May. 

While the Cambridge healthcare provider takes in as many patients through the OSDC program as it can, it is severely limited by its space. 

According to Langs, they only have four staff comprised of one full-time dentist, a dental hygienist and two related administrative staff members.

They are also working within two dental operatory rooms, one reception/waiting area, a panoramic x-ray room and one sterilization room and equipment room. 

"The wait is long, but at this age you'll take all the help you can get, because when you get to this age you need to go to the dentist more and the small stuff affects your body in different ways than when you're young," said Murphy. 

To apply to the Lang's OSDC program eligible patients must be over 65-years-old, meet financial requirements and have no private insurance that covers dental care. 

Applications are handled by the province and wait times are subject to change. 

For more information about Langs and its services, visit the website