After today’s announcement that eligible seniors will be invited to apply for enrollment in the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) starting this month, and care could begin as early as May 2024, many questions remain. It is unclear how this new program will affect patients and dentists across the country. The CDCP will only succeed if the federal government taps into the expertise of practising dentists, through their provincial and territorial dental associations, right at the start.
The CDCP is intended to help millions of people without dental benefits access essential oral health care. Although this is an historic investment, the CDCP has been developed under tight timelines and with limited involvement of practising dentists. It is critical that the government has a full understanding of the impact it will have on patients trying to access the program.
Despite an announcement about the start of patient enrollment, Canadians still don’t know:
- Will I be allowed to choose my own dentist?
- Will the plan replace my current work, school and/or group dental benefits?
- What will happen to any other public dental programs that I am already eligible for?
- Will the plan be easy to use or will there be needless administrative hurdles and red tape?
- What will I have to pay for my dental care?
Patients are already asking their dentists these questions, but the answers they need from the federal government aren’t yet clear.
Since the first federal announcement almost two years ago, dental associations have clearly said they know how to build a plan that will work for patients, dentists, and taxpayers. As experts in oral healthcare delivery, dentists across Canada prepared their advice to the federal government in A Proposed Framework for the Canadian Dental Care Plan, which was shared publicly in November. The comprehensive and actionable framework is based on decades of data, research and expert input from practising dentists across regions and specialties. It outlines ways in which the CDCP could be successfully implemented.
While some of the information was considered by Health Canada, the dental associations see some important concerns and gaps that need to be filled. Recently, the dental associations met with Health Canada to outline this framework and their remaining questions. Today’s announcement reveals that there is still more to discuss and much more work to be done before the plan can launch.
In the meantime, to address some of the immediate concerns surrounding the CDCP, the provincial and territorial dental associations:
- Remind patients not to delay treatments or dental appointments. Regular checkups now can help catch problems before they become painful and expensive to treat.
- Strongly encourage employers and other groups to keep the dental benefits for their employees and members, so they don’t lose access to care.
- Urge the government to implement a coordinated plan to increase skilled labour for dental offices. Without it, patients could face delays in getting the dental care they need.
Dental associations look forward to working with federal government officials to help them with their implementation plans for the CDCP. Dentists want to help make great access to care a reality for everyone.