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The NDP’s Health Critic says he has nine million reasons to support Canada’s public dental care plan. The plan will give nine million children and seniors access to dental care.

Don Davies, MP (Vancouver Kingsway), made the remarks at a webinar organized by the Canadian Health Coalition and hosted by Anne Lagacé Dowson on September 19.

Webinar: Health With Teeth, An Update on Canada’s Dental Care Plan, September 19, 2023

Joining Davies was Dr. Brandon Doucet, dentist, founder of the Coalition for Dentalcare and author of About Canada: Dental Care (Fernwood). Doucet noted that one in three Canadians lack dental care and one in five avoid the dentist each year because of financial constraints.

“These numbers are rising because work is becoming more precarious and fewer people are getting dental benefits tied to their labour. Many elderly people are retiring and losing that work-related benefit. The cost of dental care has been rising more than inflation for decades,” said Doucet who provides dental care in prisons and sees people who have tried to extract their own teeth.

Doucet spoke about how lack of access to dental care can lead to life-threatening infections and results in people making unnecessary trips to hospital emergency rooms that are not well equipped to provide dental care.

Davies described how the current dental care plan came to be. Both he and Doucet encouraged the audience to keep fighting for universal dental care that leaves no one out.

For Doucet, providing dental care not only benefits individuals but society as a whole.

“We are going to reduce strain on our health care system because people are going to be healthier. People are going to be less likely to get trapped in the cycle of poverty because having missing teeth or visible dental decay is a visible marker of poverty. It affects people’s employability. Ensuring access to dental care is really an opportunity to give people a dignified quality of life,” said Doucet.

“This is a national shame,” said Davies after describing how tooth decay remains the most common yet preventable disease in children, is the most common reason for day surgery in children and is the most common reason children miss school. “We have children who have such pain in their mouths that they can’t go to school.”