The Canada Dental Benefit that is being phased in for children under 12 has local dentists questioning whether the dollar amount is enough to cover dental care needs for their young patients.
With $5.3 billion allocated for the Canada Dental Benefit and it should be fully implemented by 2025, area dentist Dr. Christina Heidinger said it isn’t enough.
The benefit of $650 per child is a basic amount, it's not a lot for a child for one year. It's a good amount if your child doesn't have any cavities or any extensive care that needs to be done, said Heidinger.
The benefit isn’t set up like OHIP where a patient gives their card to the health care provider, and the payment is taken care of through OHIP.
Patients may end up paying out of pocket at first and be reimbursed after the fact, said Heidinger.
Patients apply online for the benefit and will receive a cheque for $650 per child, is what Lisa Bentley, president of the Ontario Dental Association said she understood.
There are no details for what the plan will cover, if it is limited to cleanings or if fillings, and x-rays are also covered.
“Uninsured patients that have not been coming to the dentist, their needs might exceed the $650,” said Dr. Maneesh Jain, Guelph dentist and owner of Jain Dental Care. He said it is a good start.
I was happy to see the federal government announcement about the Canada Dental Benefit since we are finally talking about oral healthcare, said Jain.
“As dentists we've been advocating for sustainable access to dental care for everyone, for years,” he said.
Dental healthcare is far behind other countries in the world and if we take a look at Canada, Ontario has the lowest investment in public dental care in the country, claims Jain.
The government needs to be mindful of their spending but there needs to be adequate funding, he said.
“If we started at an early age with prevention, then we nip things in the bud so that we're not leading to more expensive outcomes that need to be treated.”
To start the plan with children under the age of 12 is a good start since dentists are able to treat, monitor and educate youth about oral hygiene which can lead to better health outcomes in the future, he said.
It needs to go beyond this dental benefit and the government needs to come up with a broader oral health strategy. A multi-pronged approach which can include dental screenings at schools, community water fluoridation, public health and dental education, said Jain.
“People without benefits, some of these people have been forced to go to hospitals for treatment. That's clogging up our emergency rooms and all they're receiving is a painkiller and an antibiotic, and it's not taking care of the root cause of the problem,” said Bentley.
All of the dental plans in Ontario are chronically underfunded and the ODA hopes the plants merge,” said Bentley.
“This system is not working, it's failing the most vulnerable portion of our population and it's heartbreaking,” said Bentley, referring to the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program.
It’s important for the ODA to have a seat at the table when plans like the Canada Dental Benefit are being developed, and they were included in this plan. The last time they were left out of conversation about the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program,” she said.
"Whenever government is willing to help provide oral health care to any portion of our population, we're very happy about it," said Bentley.