Is the mouth part of the body? Silly question of course. However, in Canada you could be forgiven if you weren’t sure, due to the fact that dental care was excluded from the Medical Care Act of 1966.
Why was dental care excluded from the Medical Care Act?
The historical reasons are several, but the prevailing opinion of the day was that the balance of responsibilities for oral health fall on the individual rather than the public. This was the opinion of the Royal Commission that made the recommendations.
In addition to this view, at the time of these decisions, improvements in education, as well as fluoridation of public water supplies were resulting in a sharp drop in rates of dental disease, and these diseases were largely seen as something that could be significantly reduced and, eventually, eliminated.
Fast forward to today. Many times in the office, dentists are asked, “why isn’t my dentistry covered by the medical system?” It’s a valid question, especially given the increasing links between oral health and general health.
Would national coverage for dentistry result in a healthier population?
Hard to say, but one thing is for sure: it would be incredibly expensive and therefore unlikely to be politically viable in these tight budgetary times. As far as the reduction of dental disease… well, any working dentist could tell you that there is still a huge amount of disease in the population. Fluoridation is decreasing, sugar is absolutely everywhere, and time in the dental chair is expensive.
Not exactly a recipe for improving the oral health of the public.
Fact is, destruction of the mouth due to tooth decay or gum disease is largely preventable, and so maybe the founders of Medicare were on the right track after all.
Dentists and hygienists spend a lot of time and effort trying to motivate people to do the things that will keep them healthier. Turns out, your mouth is a part of your body after all, and prevention of diseases is always going to be more successful than interventions and imperfect treatments.
As for government involvement in dental care? Don’t hold your breath. But do educate yourself on how to keep a healthy mouth, and apply discipline and the power of habits to make sure your mouth stays healthy for years to come.