The Canadian government’s approach to universal dental care should include preserving private dental insurance programs and using existing clinics, the Canadian Dental Association says.
On Tuesday the association released a policy paper following consultations with federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, provincial and territorial dental associations and dentists from across Canada.
They put forth several recommendations for the Liberal government, urging them to have a national oral health strategy in place by April 2025.
Dentists across Canada could see up to 9 million new patients as a result of the government’s new universal dental-care program, the report says, but it cautions that new policies are needed.
“It’s a massive undertaking and we are pleased to see that this attention is being given to oral health care because we know there’s a sizable number of Canadians that don’t access regular dental care because of cost,” said Dr. Lynn Tomkins, the Canadian Dental Association president, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
The recommendations include using existing dental offices, addressing staffing shortages so people don’t have to endure long wait-lists, ensuring that treatment costs are fully covered, and undertaking a survey on oral health.
The association also wants the government to explore incentivizing employers so they continue to offer dental insurance to workers.
“We are concerned that whatever the government brings out, it does not disrupt the current ecosystem of third-party employer-sponsored health benefits,” Tomkins said.
“We wouldn’t want to see you lose your dental plan.”
The association also recommends the federal government do a legislative review of dental care every five years, and collaborate with provinces and territories on its rollout.
Universal access to dental care is set to be fully implemented by 2025. Children under the age of 12 who are from lower-income families currently eligible to receive a children’s dental benefit through the Canada Revenue Agency.
This year, it’s expected the coverage will be expanded to teens, seniors and those living with a disability.
The Liberals said the benefit is intended to provide cost-of-living relief to low-income Canadians.
The current benefit is available to families whose household income is less than $90,000 a year and ranges from $260 to $650 per child depending on net income.
The NDP pushed for a universal dental-care program as part of an agreement to support the minority Liberals on major legislation and confidence votes until 2025.
Conservative House leader Andrew Scheer has said the current dental benefit is superficial, and that handing out cash could contribute to inflation and make the cost of living worse.
—Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press