Whitehorse Daily Star

Dental emergency proves a costly misadventure

A Whitehorse woman’s dental emergency has left her thousands of dollars out of pocket, as the Yukon government health insurance program is covering only part of the surgery cost and travel per diems.

By Nancy Campbell on February 12, 2024

A Whitehorse woman’s dental emergency has left her thousands of dollars out of pocket, as the Yukon government health insurance program is covering only part of the surgery cost and travel per diems.

Shalom Dawson’s story illustrates the shortcomings of the government’s health coverage when it comes to serious dental emergencies.

She is back in Whitehorse now, on the road to recovery, but frustrated at the position she was put in by government health coverage rules.

Dawson had turned to the Yukon NDP for help in getting her surgery and travel costs covered.

But NDP Leader Kate White says the lack of coverage for dental interventions for medical reasons is a loophole in the system that has yet to be addressed.

“The challenge is that even with the new government dental program there are gaps when it is a medical situation,” she told the Star today.

She said the NDP caucus deals with several requests for this type of help each year, but that there are likely more people affected.

Dawson’s ordeal began in late December, when pain sent her to the Emergency Room. It turned out she had a serious abscess, in conjunction with a rare dental condition, a tooth within a tooth.

Dawson was told the best course of action was to have an oral surgeon remove at least seven teeth, on top of treating her abscess.

However, the earliest date for a Whitehorse appointment was late February.

Dawson’s sister started a Go Fund Me in mid-January when it became clear the costs would top $10,000: about $7,000 for the surgery, plus flights, accommodation and other personal costs. It raised $1,275 before closing down after a couple of weeks.

Dawson eventually flew to Vancouver for oral surgery performed last Wednesday. She had to pay for the dental impressions and surgery in advance.

The total bill is around $15,000 but, thanks to help from family and friends, Dawson says a lot has been covered.

The Yukon government is contributing just under $3,000 for the surgery and per diems. Dawson used her credit card for the rest.

The good news is that Dawson is now in much less pain.

“A lot of costs and stress could have been avoided if a full-time dental surgeon was based here,” she said. “I’m disappointed this type of dental surgery is not covered.”

Dawson is thankful for the generosity of family and friends.

On her Go Fund Me page, she noted that one couple booked the flights for her and her partner on points, while others helped with hotel costs, child care, “prayers and more.

“Even having to ask family and friends for help is not a position anybody should be put in when it comes to a medical situation,” Dawson said.

The new Yukon government dental program provides $1,300 per year to people with no other dental coverage and is means-tested.

It must be applied for each year.

The government is only covering part of the cost of the surgery and dentures.

Dawson said she was told the policy said she should have had fewer teeth removed. Dawson said she had to earlier prove that the oral surgery was even necessary.

White says one way to fix the government health coverage loophole is to amend the policy around medical travel, something that can be done relatively quickly.

“We need to reflect the realities of the human experience,” she said.

“People need to be able to appeal these decisions when the policy falls short.”

Dawson did talk with Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee about her situation but said it “didn’t go anywhere useful.”

Photo of Dawson and her family, picture of teeth pre-surgery available on Go Fund Me:


Comments (4)

Up 0 Down 1

Resident on Feb 18, 2024 at 3:07 pm


Because healthcare is covering the costs when the person ends up in emergency with sepsis because they could not afford a dentist.

One friend had a bad infection and was pretty much gambling they'd raise the funds for their wisdom teeth extraction before the infection hit their bloodstream. Another chewed aspirin like skittles, figuring the hospital would extract the problem tooth while dealing with the renal failure. Neither had benefits, rich parents, or money to pay for a dentist.

Both of those situations would be far more expensive to the taxpayer than simply acknowledging that teeth are, in fact, part of the body and not some voluntary extra option for our meatsuit.

There's also more research showing that chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth may be contributing to more severe health conditions later in life. Another reason to include dental care in health.

Up 0 Down 1

Vlad on Feb 17, 2024 at 10:28 am

I am quite surprised by the overwhelming negative response to my comment. Probably, mainly Whitehorse people who are employed by the government. To say that most dental "incidents," whatever they are, can be prevented by proper dental hygiene is simply silly. The statistic says that 2.2 % of middle-aged Canadians have no teeth left. Are you suggesting it is their fault for being pigs?
Neglected dental health could lead to many other serious health problems.
Consequently, according to your dental health provider, you should attend it twice a year. An overnight trip to Whitehorse is something many people can not afford. I can go on and on. Have a good day.

Up 16 Down 5

JustSayin' on Feb 16, 2024 at 1:54 pm


Why should dental be covered when most incidents can be prevented by good oral hygiene?

Up 13 Down 38

Vlad on Feb 12, 2024 at 2:38 pm

Complete dental care, including the travel expenses, should be 100% covered as any other health issues.

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