How The Cost Of Dental Work In Canada Is Keeping Patients Away

Since dental insurance is not included in Canadian health insurance programs, statistics indicate that Canadians spend nearly twelve billion dollars a year on dental services. Statistics also show that there is a huge disparity in those who receive dental care from dental clinics in Winnipeg and those that don’t. Unless you can cover the cost out of pocket or have enough in your budget to add dental insurance, the likelihood that you can afford regular dental maintenance — much less dental care — is very slim. Those who are suffering the worst are the poor when it comes to overall dental health.

Estimates are that as many as six million people in Canada avoid going to see a dentist every year because they simply don’t have the money.  Most only see the dentist when they are experiencing a problem; preventative care is all but nonexistent in many areas. Many dentists see what is obvious: the system is not working for many people, and Canadians are  extremely underserved for their dental needs due to money limitations.

Almost all dental care in Canada is funded through private insurance, through an employer, or is paid out of pocket by the individual. The number of people covered by insurance continues to shrink as the Canadian population ages and retires, and the economy is altered with more people choosing employment that is self-funded.

Many dentists are taking issue with the recent recommendations by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Although the Academy acknowledges the problem of poorer populations not receiving much-needed care, they did not make a recommendation to include dental care to the “free” medical care system under Medicare. The report states that dental services wouldn’t be a realistic addition to the current political or economic atmosphere of Canadian society.

What the report did recommend is that there be more publicly-funded dental programs that would include more coherent and broader dental services, and that they provide essential care for those who can’t afford it. Added to the list are individuals in institutional care, refugees and immigrants, aboriginal people, the homeless, those on social assistance and people with disabilities.

Currently, approximately $700 million is spent annually on publicly-funded dental services. Many who are eligible aren’t being served due to limitations of accessibility. All the territories and provinces pay for dental surgical procedures that are in-hospital, and some provide preventative procedures for children. In Nova Scotia, those under the age of 14 are provided free dental care, and in Quebec, children under 10 are served. There are also many ad-hoc organizations that will help children with dental care needs. Many of them stem from the ten Canadian dentistry schools around the nation. But if you don’t live close by, then you aren’t going to be able to take advantage.

Canada has the lowest number of publicly-funded dental care programs in the world, and devotes only 6% of its total budget to dental care. Even in the US where many are underserved, the percentage remains higher at nearly 9%. In places around Europe, dentistry is often included in universal health care coverage.

The lack of preventative care is leaving many with dental issues that aren’t addressed until they are highly expensive and disastrous. Not to mention, the number of medical bills stacking on your credit (learn more here) becomes a lose-lose situation.  A little bit of prevention would go a long way, not just for the general dental health of the Canadian public, but also for the economic hardship that dental care places on those who don’t have insurance or aren’t otherwise covered through any assistance.

Dental health isn’t just about your teeth. Studies prove that your dental health has a huge impact on your cardiovascular health, your mental health, and can be a limitation to your nutritional health if not addressed. Although it’s a high price to add to Canada’s already-expensive  free medical care program, something needs to be in place to help those without the resources to see a dentist for regular exams and especially those who are in an emergency situation. People shouldn’t have to wait until things are dire or painful to get the dental care they need.

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