So why are we bringing history into this current issue of limited access to dental care for low-socioeconomic children? The answer is simple: History matters. If we look at the historical reasons for excluding dental care as part of the free health care plan for Canada, we can hopefully see why these reasons have ultimately had a negative impact on the health of Canadians, as opposed to a positive one.
According to Carlos Quiñonez, author of, 'Why was dental care excluded from Canadian Medicare?' there are five primary reasons for the exclusion of dental care: legislative, professional, socio-cultural, economic, and epidemiological reasons. Without going into too much detail, each area had specific reasons for not including dental care as part of Canadian Medicare (the plan for free health care). Legislatively, they decided that at the time, they needed to focus on the need for medical doctors and access to care. They certainly recognized the importance of dental care, but they felt that this need could be addressed at a later date. Dental professionals interfered with the addition of dental care as they believed that addressing dental issues at a young age would prevent the need for adults to need free dental care. In the 1950's, Dentists pushed for fluoridation in water not only as a preventive measure for dental disease, but to prove that dental disease could be controlled without the need of free care. However, it is important to note that dentists also pushed for this so they themselves could have control over their profession as opposed to the government. In addition to these reasons, the importance of oral health was already determined on a social level, and based on evidence from the United Kingdom, only 16% of the population took advantage of free dental care when it was implemented in the 1940s. Finally, it was determined that there was no epidemiological need for free dental care at the time as only 13% of children had untreated dental caries, and the need for dental care in the future was disregarded.
Despite the reasons for the exclusion of dental care from the Canada Health Act developed from Medicare, I think it is fair for all Canadians to question why we are still implementing a Health Care plan developed fifty years ago. Of course we all enjoy the advantages of having free health care, but even the general population is aware of the growing rates of dental disease in both adults, and children.
If we know that oral health is a component of overall health, then we need to push for free dental care. Insurance coverages and provincial programs are not enough. There are still Canadians suffering from the effects of dental disease, and it is absolutely essential that we do something about this not only for today, but for our future.
Quinonez, Carlos. (2013). Why was dental care excluded from Canadian Medicare? Network for Canadian Oral Health Research. Retrieved from:http://ncohr-rcrsb.ca/knowledge-sh