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Does Ryerson’s dental plan care enough?

By Sarah Tomlinson

Although Ryerson’s dental coverage includes the cost of basic dental maintenance, some students don’t feel it contributes enough to cover severe dental issues.

Abigail Cassio, a fourth-year creative industries student, has been dealing with severe dental issues for the last year and a half after her jaw was displaced by a wisdom teeth surgery. 

After consulting with several specialists, she learned that fixing her jaw would entail getting braces, further realignments, and other specialized orthodontic care—costing around $7,000 in total.

Since orthodontic coverage is not provided by the provincial health care system in Canada, patients like Cassio typically pay out of pocket if they don’t have another type of plan in place.

“It’s crazy that orthodontic care isn’t considered medical. Your teeth affect your everyday life. You need to eat to live,” said Cassio.

Like many students, Cassio is enrolled in a full-time degree and has a part-time job. However, all the money she makes from work goes toward food and housing, not leaving enough to cover the costs of her dental health. 

For that reason, her friend Amanda Legault created a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the costs of the necessary orthodontic care required to get rid of her pain. 

Cassio has not been able to find adequate support through the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Health and Dental plan. According to the RSU website, the RSU dental plan covers 80 per cent of the cost of diagnostic and preventative procedures like check-ups, x-rays and cleanings. 

This means that per benefit year, students are entitled to two fluoride treatments among other basic services. However, the plan only covers 10 per cent of the cost of periodontic and major restorative procedures. 

“I have trouble focusing on school because I’m in pain all the time,” Cassio said. “I’m paying for school, but I can’t excel the way I normally would because of these problems. Ryerson should give a little more.”

James Fotak, interim vice president operations for the RSU, says there isn’t orthodontic coverage included in any other student health plans in Canada either. 

“I have trouble focusing on school because I’m in pain all the time” 

Students that receive dental insurance outside of school have the option to opt out of the dental plan. The opt out number ranges on average between 25 and 35 per cent, according to Fotak. 

Lana Douleh, a dentist at R U Smiling doesn’t think orthodontic issues are widespread enough to require comprehensive coverage. However, she does feel students should have more support for expensive but common issues like root canals. 

She says that despite many of her patients needing root canals, insurance will only cover 10 per cent, leaving students to cover costs up to $900 or more out of their own pocket. 

In addition, Douleh said that Ryerson’s dental plan could extend the number of time units it allocates for cleanings. According to the RSU website, Ryerson students are entitled to cleanings that last two units, which equates to a 30-minute cleaning.

Douleh said that she always provides students with an extra unit of time for free in order to conduct a thorough checkup. 

“They need more units. You need to explain to them about their oral hygiene and what’s going on in their mouth,” Douleh said. “That’s why we always give them 15 minutes free. Half an hour would not be enough for anyone.” 

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