In recent decades, across many developed countries, including Canada, there has been a substantial improvement in the oral health of populations. Despite this, oral diseases such as dental decay and gum disease remain common, and increasing evidence now demonstrates links between oral health and general health conditions, such as a direct link between gum disease and diabetes. Furthermore, as with many other social, economic and health-related indicators, these improvements in oral health indicators for whole populations mask increasing inequalities within the populations. On top of this, in recent years it has been increasingly recognized that in countries with predominantly private dental care systems, access to oral health care for some groups is emerging as an increasing problem.
In this context, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences identified improving access to oral health care in Canada as a subject for an assessment. The charge to the panel created to address this issue was to respond to the following questions and make recommendations:
- What is the current state of oral health in Canada?
- What is the current state of Canada’s oral health care system(s)? How are they structured, administered and governed?
- What factors determine the oral health of individuals and communities?
- What are the impacts of poor oral health on individuals and on Canadian society? Are there any identifiable groups among whom these impacts are more severe?
- What measures could be taken to improve the oral health of Canadians? What would be the associated direct and indirect costs of such measures?
This report identifies a number of issues, which can be distilled to the following core problems:
- Vulnerable groups living in Canada have both the highest level of oral health problems and the most difficulty accessing oral health care; and
- The public and private oral health care systems in Canada are not effective in providing reasonable access to oral health care for all vulnerable people living in Canada.
The Panel envisages equity1 in access to oral health care for all people living in Canada. 1By equity in access, the Panel means reasonable access, based on need for care, to agreed-upon standards of preventive and restorative oral health care
The recommendations designed to address the core problems identified in the report are grouped into a framework that provides a logical order of priority, proceeding as follows:
- Communicate with relevant stakeholders concerning the core problems raised in the report.
- Establish appropriate standards of preventive and restorative oral health care to which all people living in Canada should have reasonable access.
- Identify the health care delivery systems and the personnel necessary to provide these standards of oral health care.
- Identify how provision of these standards of preventive and restorative oral health care will be financed.
Identify the research and evaluation systems that monitor the effects of putting these recommendations into place.
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