It’s candy season in Canada, and this Halloween every U of T student should know how affordable the student dental plan is and why keeping your teeth clean can boost your long-term health.
Dental coverage for UTSG undergraduate students
Here’s a rundown of U of T’s undergraduate student dental plan, with the help of the University of Toronto Students Union’s (UTSU) Vice President of Finance and Operations, Samir Mechel.
“[The dental plan is] used… by thousands… of students each year,” said Mechel in an interview with The Varsity. “It’s usually a pretty smooth experience.”
All full-time undergraduate students at UTSG are eligible for dental coverage provided through the UTSU. This extends to domestic and international students, although some students with existing coverage can choose to opt out and save $102.58 — the cost of the plan this semester.
Mechel oversees the plan, which provides a range of services to students at over 10 clinics close to the St. George campus. Every year, students can have one oral examination with polishing and cleaning fully covered by insurance. Insurance also takes care of up to 70 per cent of X-rays and 80 per cent of extractions every year. The plan covers $800 worth of dental visits overall.
I first used the UTSU’s dental plan last year, and I know it’s already saved me money compared to treatment in my home country. The Globe and Mail reported that the average dental checkup costs around $150 to $300, and that fillings cost $150 to $450. “Because we’re such a large organization… we get a very good rate for it,” said Mechel. “We do get pretty competitive coverage, even compared to other universities in Canada.”
He went on to describe the online claiming process through Greenshield, the UTSG undergrad insurer. Similar coverage is available for UTSC and UTM students, also through Greenshield. In my experience, the Greenshield website is easy to navigate. It explains that students can claim their benefits in two simple steps: presenting their pay-direct card to the dentist, and submitting the claim either online, through the app, or by mailing it in. Importantly, help is always available at the front desk of the UTSU building at 230 College Street, and from there, dental clinics are within walking distance.
Most clinics near UTSG are familiar with U of T’s dental policy. Mechel mentioned that, at some of them, “you might just give [the dental office] your student number… so you never have to make a claim.”
Words of wisdom from a Dental PhD student
Letting loose on Halloween candy without regard to the health-related consequences might be tempting, but Zoha Anjum doesn’t think so. As president of the U of T Dental Students’ Society, Anjum says that staying consistent with regular check ups is best in the long term.
“Really keep an eye on how your overall health is [because] we usually realize the importance of [our physical health] when it’s not there anymore,” said Anjum. “I’ve been there, I ignored it. And I faced the consequences of ignoring it.”
When asked to discuss the availability of care for U of T students, Anjum mentioned regions outside of Canada where dental care is not accessible or affordable.
“Not everyone can afford to buy insurance. Not everyone has that ability to walk into any clinic and seek the medical attention or dental attention that they need,” she said.
According to Anjum, “If you [already] have insurance coverage, that opens up a lot of options for you.” Students with existing insurance who don’t opt out of U of T’s health plan can receive opinions from multiple clinicians in order to make an informed decision about what is right for their oral health.
Anjum also treats dental patients in her PhD program, so she shared some dental wisdom with The Varsity.
“A lot of times people [only] brush the front [of their teeth]… but they won’t brush the tongue side… where a lot of buildup ends up,” she said.
“But [you] can’t brush this space in between the teeth,” Anjum pointed out. “Flossing is so important because it helps you remove that debris between your teeth…[in areas that are] more prone to cavities,” she added. “[Food] builds up over time and the bacteria has an opportunity to start breaking your teeth down.”
At U of T, I have saved hundreds of dollars on eyeglasses and orthotics through my student health plan, but I think the greatest value the plan has given me was for my teeth. In fact, the idea for writing this article came to me while I was in a dentist’s chair just south of campus.
Living life with healthy teeth feels great, and you can find out more about the UTSU plan online or at the UTSU front desk at 230 College Street. More information about the UTSC dental plan and the UTM dental plan is available online.