CDA Essentials 2018 • Volume 5 • Issue 1

9 Issue 1 | 2018 | CDA at W ork I mproving access to oral health care for Canadians who struggle to get the care they need is an issue we continue to confront. In December, I was invited on the CBC radio program The Current to discuss what can be done to help the millions of Canadians who avoid visiting the dentist because they can’t afford it or face other difficulties in accessing oral health care. Listeners heard stories from people who are desperate to fix their teeth: a single mom with no dental insurance, a cancer patient with an unaffordable dental bill, and a grandmother trying to find help for her grandson. They also heard from the health professionals who are trying to help them: dentists who provide mobile dental care or who treat patients covered by publicly funded programs in their private practice, and an emergency room physician who does what he can to help relieve patients in dental pain. The moving accounts of people who have found themselves with few options to address their oral health problems resonated with many listeners. It’s clear to me that we must do better to provide support for the Canadians who need it the most. Among the public, governments, and health care providers, the question of how to improve access to oral health care is part of an ongoing national discussion. As my colleague Dr. Paul Allison, dean of the faculty of dentistry at McGill University, noted on the program, the Canadian system of dental care burdens a segment of the Canadian population with a double disadvantage: people with the highest levels of disease also face the greatest barriers to care. One key barrier to improving access is the reluctance of governments at all levels to create and provide adequate funding for dental programs aimed at helping disadvantaged groups. As Canadians, we look after each other and we want dental programs that will support people in need, so that everyone—regardless of income—has an opportunity to achieve good oral health. CDA has always supported publicly funded, targeted programs designed to improve access to care for disadvantaged groups. One of CDA’s priority projects aims to reduce barriers to care for people with special health care needs, particularly those with physical disabilities and cognitive development challenges. This patient group faces multiple barriers to dental care and experiences greater levels of disease compared to the general population. At the federal level, CDA is a strong advocate of funding for existing or lapsed provincial and territorial oral health programs for people with disabilities. A positive development on this front came from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in its pre-budget report issued in December. Referencing CDA’s request, the report recommends that the government allocate funding to these programs. We will follow this development closely and look to build on it in the new year. Filling the gaps in dental care in Canada requires leaders in health care, governments and social services to work towards a common understanding of where investments should be made to improve the oral health of vulnerable Canadians. These recent conversations continue the important dialogue about improving the oral health, and overall health, of all Canadians. From the President Larry Levin, dds Access to Oral Health Care Do all Canadians have it?