There is growing public debate about including dental care as part of medical care in Canada. The Ontario election seems to indicate that publicly-paid dentistry is going to happen, one way or another and sooner or later.

The crux of this debate appears to be affordability. Dental care as we know it, is beyond the reach of an aging community and for those younger groups which are struggling in the gig economy without benefits.

This is not a situation unique to Canada. In the US, dental services are the most un-affordable of all medical services — witness the following chart.

So the new Ontario dental plan will likely pay for simple, relatively inexpensive fillings and cleanings for those who haven’t seen a dentist for some time.  Moreover, a maximum contribution by the government will limit spending and demand.

This approach has been tried in the UK and the US. It has led to frustration for the dental team, the patient and the taxpayer. The complaint is that resources are insufficient to do the right job with the right outcomes. More particularly, the demand for dental care under these schemes, seems to be insatiable.

New approaches are needed. Ones which address the cause of poor oral health rather than the consequences.

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