Dentists who work with low-income communities say they hope a federal dental plan announced this week will help their clients, but still have questions about how it will work.
A new ‘supply and confidence’ agreement between the Liberals and NDP will see New Democrats backing the minority Liberal government on confidence votes through 2025 in exchange for action on several NDP priorities, including a federal dental program.
“It’s a matter of dignity,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday. “It will make a huge difference to people’s health and quality of life.”
Bruce Ward is a dentist who has worked in clinics in the Downtown Eastside and said he was surprised but happy to see the priority given to oral health.
“Over the past few years there has been a lot of evidence linking oral health to overall health and it’s great that all of a sudden people are starting to realize that,” he told CBC. The first edition.
He estimates that 35 percent of people in the province do not have financial assistance for dental care and when they have a dental emergency they have to go to the hospital and it is a really difficult situation.
Ward says dentists have been advocating for years for people to be covered before they end up in the emergency room.
“Which is actually very valuable, especially over the past two years with COVID and there was no room for these people in the clinic,” he said.
Sheenagh McMahon, from Victoria, said as a self-employed worker and mother she struggled to afford dental treatment.
“I would forego dental appointments for myself in order to have some for my daughter,” she said.
She is also concerned about the focus on employer programs – insurance obtained through a third party like Green Shield or Blue Cross.
“We all know employment is really fragile, I mean you might be employed now but you might not be employed in a month,” she said.
Michel Breau, head of advocacy and governance at the Canadian Dental Association, said he was also surprised by the announcement, as he would like to see the federal government invest in the provincial programs that are already in place for people with low income.
“These programs are pretty underfunded. They’re almost exclusively funded by provincial and territorial governments, and the federal government doesn’t really help run them,” he said.
He said he always looks forward to working with the government to ensure it finds the most “impactful” way to address the oral health of Canadians.
Back in the Downtown Eastside, Ward said a team of volunteer dentists, hygienists and assistants regularly help people with pain.
“It’s a great group of people to deal with. They’re extremely grateful and they’re extremely grateful and they actually make working in these clinics a joy.”
“It’s really amazing to watch and it can happen very quickly with very little treatment, so it’s mostly about taking people who would normally have problems accessing dental care and delivering it to them in a way that’s safe. ‘they can afford or they can handle.