Denticare: Our Need for Universal Dental Care

Tomorrow morning I have a date with destiny. To be more specific I have an appointment with my dentist.

When I was eight or nine years old, the dentist I had at the time decided to pull three of my front teeth as they were all still baby teeth. My gums were (and still are) very strong, they just couldn’t let those last baby teeth go. The only problem I faced back then was the awful smile I had waiting for the adult teeth to grow in. I didn’t know at the time that I’d have to wait more than twenty-five years for that final tooth to break through my strong gums.

Twenty-five years is a long time, not being able to smile with assurance especially when it includes your teen years and twenties. I couldn’t really smile at the ladies or in a mirror for that matter and my confidence was fairly shot, but looking back it probably didn’t affect me all that much… must, kill, everyone!

Ironically, my dentist visit tomorrow will be to extract the same tooth I had removed in my childhood. That main tooth that was in my gums for so long is coming in sideways and pushing the other teeth out of sync, at least this time their will be a permanent bridge put in place. The total cost of this bridge work will cost more than $5700, not a penny of it will be paid for by my work insurance as they consider it to be cosmetic.

My case might seem a little extreme, but there are millions of other Canadians in similar situations who don’t have dental insurance. In fact, many Canadians go years without seeing a dentist simply because of the cost of a cleaning or filling. The only time most of the working poor goes for a checkup is when they are already in pain and even that might not persuade some people to go, which can be dangerous. It’s not that uncommon for someone to die as a result of abscessed teeth, but in this day and age it should be.

Canada has a world famous universal health care system, it’s not perfect but it’s better than abandoning people outside the hospital. Whether you’re rich or poor, our Medicare system provides the same coverage to everyone, why can’t it be the same for oral health? We can live without hair or with an ugly birthmark, but unless we want to live on a diet of applesauce we need our teeth.

Dentists Extract More Than Just Teeth

A universal health care system that includes dental care might not persuade the masses as a whole to go to the dentist twice a year. After all, some people are just plain terrified of the dentist, but at least the option would be there for those who want to take advantage of it. Just like medicine, the cost of dental care would go down and the (oral) health of average Canadians would go up which to me is the main objective.

As far as the quality of dental care goes, I’ve heard arguments from both sides of the dentists’ coin. One dentist says the quality of care would drop because dentists would have to put efficiency over care, he then used Britain’s reputation for rotten snaggleteeth as proof that universal dental care doesn’t work. I believe that it can work,   it’s their individual structure that doesn’t. The Japanese have a different system and they have damn good teeth.

The dentist that agreed with the need for a national dental care system is bang on when he said that part of the privilege of the profession is meeting the needs of society before meeting our own, meaning that to some dentists it’s all about money instead of the quality of care. I’ve been told several times by dentists, including the one that I’m currently seeing, that they don’t mind if some individuals don’t take good care of their teeth, the more cavities folks have, the more money they make… I won’t be seeing him after my treatment.

In my opinion, an oral hygienist should be looked upon more as a public servant than a car mechanic or someone else waiting to pounce on you as soon as there is a problem in your mouth.

Less then 50% of Canadians have dental insurance through work. Those that are insured can run into trouble with their insurance company for making a simple claim for a tooth extraction.   With dental technologies evolving, one small toothache can wind up costing thousands of dollars,   it’s clear we need a new way of thinking, what better way to change things than to literally bring a smile to everyone’s face. I myself will be smiling soon.

One comment

  • I haven’t been to the dentist in several years simply because I cannot afford to. as the old saying goes, it’s not the drill, it’s the bill. Dental healthcare should be covered like any other, but it isn’t. neither is a trip to a psychologist, outside of a hospital. apparantly the government cares about the health of our bodies, but not our heads. Dental health is important. so is mental health.

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