Canada’s universal health care system does not currently include dental health care. Every year, six million Canadians avoid visiting the dentist because they can’t afford it. Lack of dental care leads to hardship and avoidable illness. Pain, discomfort, speech problems, reduced social interaction and poor nutrition are just a few of the issues that arise from lack of dental care.
There are two key issues at stake when we talk about oral health: the first is the lack of public coverage for dental care. Only 6% of dental care in Canada is publicly funded. This is one of the lowest public dental funding rates amongst high-income countries. Without public dental programs, people have to pay for services out of pocket or rely on private insurance. Low income and a lack of insurance play the dominant role in limiting people’s ability to access oral health care. Without insurance or income to pay for services out of pocket, people avoid going to the dentist all together.
Secondly, oral health care in Canada is marked by deep inequalities. It is closely linked to the social determinants of health (the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age). The most vulnerable and marginalized have the worst oral health, and are also less likely to access care. Indigenous and racialized populations, rural and underserviced communities, refugees, newcomers, the uninsured, and people living in poverty are particularly hard hit by inaccessible dental care.
We have to change the way dental care is funded and delivered. The Alliance wants the Ontario government to extend full treatment public dental programs to low income adults and seniors, including people on social assistance. Alliance members are well positioned to provide these services with 25 CHCs and 3 AHACs running dental clinics that provide cost-effective services with salaried dental staff working within a defined budget.
We need to ensure that all Canadians can get the oral health care they need to be pain free, healthy and well. As we approach the 2019 federal election add your voice to the growing call for the next federal government to recognize dental care as a health issue and step up to help fill the gap experienced by 1 in 5 Canadians.
Meet with your MP and talk to federal candidates about the problem of access to dental care. Ask what steps their party will take to help get people out of dental pain and ensure dental care for all?
- Canadians support publicly-funded dental care for those without insurance poll finds (May, 2019)
- It’s time to implement a universal dental plan (January, 2019)