Penticton mom started petition for better dental care coverage after her daughter's cleft surgeries weren't covered

Dire dental coverage needs

Casey Richardson

A Penticton mom has started a petition hoping to see better dental coverage from the government, after finding out that her seven-year-old daughter’s cleft palate surgeries weren’t covered by medical care either through the provincial or federal governments.

Arrin Morcombe, her husband Riley and their three children live in the South Okanagan. They found out their eldest was going to be born with a complete unilateral cleft on the right side of her lip gum and palate before she was born, which gave them time to soak in all the information surrounding it.

What they didn’t learn was that much of the costs needed to look after her would fall onto them.

“Unfortunately in the last few months when we started her gum graft surgery ... We’ve learned that it’s not covered, so we’ve had to pay for her scans and in the future, we’ll have to pay for extractions and any type of consult fee ... which I know can add up.”

Scans alone cost hundreds of dollars and extractions can cost thousands.

“For my own experience personally, it’s already a very stressful thing as a parent to have to go through, as is like any other surgery or type of thing you have to deal with,” Morcombe said. “It’s so much harder when you have that, upcoming surgeries and appointments and back-to-back dentists and appointments.

“Then on top of it you have to worry, like do I have enough to afford what she actually needs? And that really is something that is just sad.”

Morcombe reached out to other parents in BC with children that have clefts, finding out they also weren’t aware that their dental costs wouldn’t be covered.

“We started this petition in hopes that eventually, maybe, somewhere higher up will hear about and it and be able to change the coverage on the dental plans for children with clefts and get it completely covered for them just like the medical side of it.”

The parliamentary floor will be discussing dental care in the near future, a push that the NDP minority members of government would like to see included in Canada’s health care plan, according to the MP for the South Okanagan - West Kootenay area, Richards Cannings.

“I mean that’s where I think the system is very unfair… It’s so frustrating, Canadians think we have some of the best health care in the world and yet we don’t cover things like dental care,” Cannings said.

When speaking with clinics and offices across BC, Morcombe was told that extended dental care can help cover the costs.

“But I know there are lots of families out there that don’t have extended dental and in our case, we’ve already used most of what we have for her extended dental already.”

Cannings estimates after a discussion with the parliamentary budget office that it would cost around 1 billion dollars a year to add dental coverage.

“We can easily pay for that with proper taxation,” he added. “We would also be saving hundreds of millions of dollars because people wouldn’t have to go to Emergency, people wouldn’t have to go to their doctor either.”

“We think that we could easily provide dental coverage for any household under $70,000 annually, maybe slide it up to $90,000.”

Cannings added that recent statistics show that a third of Canadians don’t have dental coverage, but seven million Canadians don’t go to the dentist because they can’t afford it.

Morcombe hopes to bring awareness to others on this issue and have other parents see their children with cleft issues looked after. To view and sign the online petition, visit the website here.

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