A new Parkland Institute report by Dr. Carlos Quiñonez examines access to dental care in Alberta and across Canada, calling for a broad range of solutions that can improve population health.
The report “Dentistry in Alberta: Time for a Checkup?” shows that Alberta’s private dental-care expenditure, which accounts for 90 per cent of all dental-care spending in the province, continues to grow. Alberta ($498.90 per capita) is the top private funder of dental care in Canada (the Canadian average is $394.09).
“Alberta’s dental care treatment costs can be high, and this means many Albertans cannot access the care they need,” says Dr. Quiñonez, associate professor and program director at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto.
While Alberta is the second highest spender on public dental care ($60.35 per capita), only nine per cent of Albertans receive government-sponsored dental insurance benefits, a drop from a high of 20 per cent in 1990. More than 20 per cent of Albertans do not have dental insurance, leading to serious implications for oral health, particularly among lower-income Albertans.
“When I see statistics like the fact that close to 30 per cent of lower-income Canadians declined recommended dental care in the past year, I have to conclude that the greater one’s needs, the less access they have to dental care,” says Dr. Quiñonez. “We need to look at how we can provide universal coverage for dental care to all Canadians.”
Dr. Quiñonez recommends provincial and federal governments invest in making dental care more affordable and accessible to all Canadians based on their dental-care needs, not the quality of their jobs or the size of their pocketbooks. Public and private investment in a universal approach that covers the whole population with some type of dental insurance benefit is the most expedient way to address existing coverage gaps and reduce the inequity in access to dental care that currently exists.
“Expanding the public and private options means a renewed vision for dental care in Alberta and Canada,” says Dr. Quiñonez. “A vision that brings us more in line with our OECD counterparts, privileges equity and fair equality of opportunity in access to care, and maximizes individual and population health.”
For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:
Sarah Pratt, communications co-ordinator
Dr. Carlos Quiñonez is a dental public health specialist and an associate professor and program director at the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto.
Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. “Dentistry in Alberta: Time for a Checkup?” is available for download on Parkland Institute’s website.