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Victoria woman with broken, cracked teeth pleads for better dental care for seniors

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A Vancouver Island woman is speaking out about the state of dental care and coverage for seniors as she struggles with broken, cracked teeth and oral infections.

Seventy-two-year-old Doreen Gee says several teeth, old fillings and one crown have fallen out of her mouth in the last year and a half.

"I can't chew my food properly. And most food that's nutritious, as you know, is hard,” Gee said. “So I'm limited and I have a hard time eating nutritious food."

She has saved all the teeth, pieces of teeth, and dental work that she has lost in the last 18 months.

Gee keeps them in a small plastic bag, which she displayed during an interview with CTV News at her Victoria home.

“It’s having a huge impact on my quality of life,” she said.

Until she turned 65, Gee was collecting disability benefits from the province, but now the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security provide most of her income.

She also does some freelance writing, but says she doesn’t make enough money to cover expensive dental work.

Gee is eligible for up to $1,000 of dental coverage every two years, but says it only covers certain procedures, such as fillings and extractions.

She has applied for emergency dental care from the province, seeking coverage for crowns to save her remaining teeth, but says she has been denied each time.

"(I'm) beyond frustration. I'm angry and I'm fed up,” Gee said.

The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction – which administers dental coverage for low-income British Columbians – did not make anyone available for an interview or provide a statement.

In an email, the ministry said it spends nearly $53 million per year on dental care for 128,000 people in the province.

Gee would like to see the provincial government make a major investment in dental care by creating a program specifically for low-income seniors like her.

"So many people, thousands and thousands of seniors and others, are going through what I'm going through now and I'm speaking for them as well as myself,” she said. “I mean, we should not have to live the last chapter of our lives with our teeth falling out of our head and be ashamed to smile."

As part of the confidence-and-supply agreement between the federal Liberals and the NDP, the Trudeau government says it is working on a plan to expand dental coverage for low-income Canadians.

But there is no indication when such a program could be up and running – and Gee worries she’ll lose more teeth before it ever becomes a reality. 

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