For Canadians High Costs Are a Big Impediment for Getting Treatment
- December 1, 2014
- Posted by: Sharky Liu
- Category: Business
If you are running a dental practice or dental business in Canada, you know how important it is to keep patients coming in the door. A dental clinic which has a steady stream of new and loyal customers, is in a good position to grow and thrive. However, a dental clinic which is struggling to find new patients, or to convince patients to keep on coming back, is going to face sustainability problems. It is generally in the interests of dentists to have a situation where it is easy for patients to seek dental care.
Now, there are a number of factors which prevent people from going to a dentist to have their teeth looked after. These can include such things as a fear of dental procedures, problems getting to a far away dental clinic, and cumbersome or intimidating paperwork. However, one factor which continues to affect too many Canadians is simply the issue of cost. Too many Canadians have trouble coming up with the funds necessary in order to see a dentist.
This is a problem, not just for patients, but also for dental practitioners. If more people are able to afford the cost of dental care, then that increases the pool of potential customers for all dentists. However, if a sizable portion of the population cannot pay for dental care, and therefore cannot go to the dentist, then the potential source of dental clients will be smaller. And this is not something that would benefit dentists, since they are forced to compete over a smaller pool of prospective clients.
Cost is a problem in Canada because of the way in which the government health care system addresses dental health issues. In fact, a report came out which reached the conclusion that the number of Canadians who are unable to get dental care because of high costs, is as high as six million people. That is a huge number of people who are compelled to tolerate or live with existing dental problems. And that is a huge number of prospective patients, representing a missed opportunity for the dental field.
Even if Canada has a universal health care system in place, it cannot be assumed that this system also covers dental problems. In fact, taking a look at the Canada Health Act, it becomes clear that procedures related to dental health are not included within its coverage. This helps to explain why there are so many Canadians out there who are struggling with dental health problems.
The situation is made more problematic by the fact that many of the people who need dental care the most, belong to marginalized or vulnerable segments of the population. These include people at either end of the age spectrum, that is, the elderly as well as young people. These also include people who are already struggling with poverty, as well as people with disabilities. It has been found that these groups of people and more suffer from a lack of access to adequate dental care.
The report was carried out by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and took a look at whether or not people are able to access the dental care and services that they need. The report looked at data over a three year period, and the conclusions make for sober reading.
Vulnerable and marginalized groups were found to be generally more likely to not have dental insurance coverage. It was found that these groups will tend to postpone or forego visiting the dentist because of issues relating to affordability and an inability to pay. The report also observed that people in these groups have a higher likelihood of suffering from tooth decay, illnesses related to the gums, and pain associated with the teeth. These problems would then tend to go untreated or unresolved. The report also found that people in these groups are less likely to consume vegetables and fruit, because of dental issues.
It has been pointed out that the lack of dental insurance leads to perverse outcomes. For instance, if a person ends up having a large foot injury, that person can simply see a doctor or go to a medical facility. It can then be treated at no cost to the patient. However, if the injury or pain is moved to a different location, specifically the mouth, then things change drastically. If that is the case, then the patient is forced to find some other way to take care of the cost of health care. This will mean either that the person has to pay for the procedure himself or herself, or the person will use private dental insurance, if he or she has it. Clearly, the situation where there is a dental health problem is much more problematic.
Again, as far as dentists are concerned, this is troubling on a number of levels. On one level, it is troubling because there is something unjust about having so many millions of people, forced to live with dental pain or dental problems, just because the universal health care system chooses to exclude dental care. It is also troubling because it appears that the health care system treats dental health problems as something that is less serious than injuries or problems in other parts of the body.
As dental practitioners, it is very clear that health problems with the teeth or mouth can in fact be very serious. These problems can lead to nearly debilitating pain, which can prevent a person from going to work or functioning normally. This then leads to further problems with cashflow. Dental problems, if left unchecked, can also lead to infections, complications and more. So it does not appear appropriate that the health care system is choosing to treat dental problems as something less serious, and less in need of coverage.
In addition, this is a missed business opportunity. If the health care system can be adjusted to include dental health within its coverage, this will open to door to proper dental care for these millions of Canadians. These are millions of additional patients for dental clinics and dentists, so this will also benefit the overall practice of dentistry.