canadian dental plan

There are many reasons why some Canadians decide that they should not to go to the dentist, but a recent report from the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) established that the high cost is a major factor. Also notable in the report was the discovery that Canada’s most vulnerable populations have the highest rates of dental decay, pain and disease, and that the same group of people has the least reliable access to this much needed health care service.

The substantial public cost for hospital care and physician services is covered through our publicly funded health care system, but in Canada, dental care is largely paid for privately. The CAHS report reveals that almost 100 percent of dental care is paid out-of-pocket, or through private dental insurance, and is provided in private dental offices. The rest is covered through a mixture of public health programs offered provincially and federally. These programs target the needs of a few specific populations, resulting in many people falling through the cracks.

Around the world, many of the leading health policy analysts are often astonished that Canada’s national system of health insurance (Medicare) does not include dental care. Understanding the past reasons for its omission can shed light on current domestic and international policy debates on dental care.

There are four main factors that contributed to dental not being incorporated into Canadian Medicare:

  • Legislative
  • Professional
  • Socio-Cultural
  • Economic

The following quote will help to sum up the above list: “Dental care was not included because of significant decreases in dental caries and limitations in dental human resources as the country’s health legislation was being developed, alongside the presence of a viable alternative option to large-scale treatment services (i.e. fluoridation), and the belief that maintaining one’s oral health and the ability to seek out dental care were individual responsibilities, not social ones.” (Quiñonez, Carlos)

Discussion of these historical reasons provides a better basis for current international efforts at expanding the public financing of dental care.


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