Dental problems are a serious issue, limited dental coverage and high out-of-pocket costs reduce consumers' use of dental services. Consequences due to untreated dental problems include pain, tooth loss, gum disease and a host of other related complications. When children experience dental problems they find it difficult to eat, play and learn while adults with the same experience find it difficult to work. |
"Chronic tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children and also affects a large number of adults." - http://ihea2011.abstractsubmit.org/sessions/131/
Research has showed a correlation between poor oral health and a higher incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia as well as Alzheimer's disease. Tooth decay is a preventable disease and is a low cost public health intervention that can play a major role in improving personal health as well as reduce long term costs on the health system in Canada.
Improving oral health is beneficial to any government seeking high returns on public investments. It is estimated that of the nearly $13 billion spent on dental services across Canada in 2009 while only approximately 5 per cent is publicly funded. In 2009 total spending on health care was over $180 billion and of that 70 per cent through public expenditures. In countries such as Japan and Norway approximately 75 per cent of dental care is covered by public funding. According to the recent Canadian Health Measures Survey 62.6% of Canadians have private dental insurance, 5.5% are publicly insured through government programs, while 31.9% pay for dental care completely out-of-pocket.
"A public health program that brings dental care to kids in schools across Canada would cost about $550 million about 4.5% of all dental spending and 0.3% of total health care spending. It would save billions of dollars of health care services down the road." - http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/updates/putting-our-money-where-our-mouth
There are signs that greater public policy is occurring with regard to Canadian dental care. In October 2010, the Government of Ontario allocated $45 million to oral health initiatives as part of its poverty reduction strategy. By looking at the dental hub within the Toronto Public Health website one can see the importance the government is placing on oral health.
The $45 million allocated to oral health as part of the poverty reduction strategy builds on programs for children and social assistance recipients, unfortunately there are citizens currently falling through the cracks, administrative rules burden public health units, dental offices and insurers, while deductibles associated with dental insurance have simply risen too high. With the Health Accord between provinces, territories and the federal government expiring in 2014 and governments preparing for its renegotiation, we need targeted strategies and a comprehensive approach to advance options that can save money and improve health.