Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Should Dentistry be part of Healthcare?

Over the last couple of years I have had to spend a great deal of money out of pocket for dental care. A combination of factors has led me to be uninsured or having difficulty claiming benefits when I have had them. As a result I have had to deal with my dentist in the way a lot of working-class people have had to. I have been fortunate that I have always been able to come up with the money for procedures and routine cleaning, but it has raised questions for me.

A few years ago I had a friend who developed a bad tooth infection. His tooth literally had to turn gray before he would bite the bullet and pay the high price for care. My friend is a sensible and hygienic person. The terrible thing about dental care is that even if you brush and floss everyday problems can still arise, the obvious example here are wisdom teeth, but some people are just prone to cavities or gum disease despite what they do.

The consequences for poor dental health including a lower quality of life, constant pain, and more serious health complications make it seems like dentistry should be relegated as a need rather than a luxury for those with insurance or money.

Compared with healthcare I do not think it makes sense for dentistry to be moved fully into the public realm. A great deal of the work dentists do is cosmetic and people opt into a higher level of service than might be required for personal reasons. There is a vibrant private dental industry that hardly should be nationalized like health services were in this country.

I'm not a medical policy wonk by any stretch, but it occurs to me that offering some sort of broad public insurance option in line with how Germany and France operate their health care systems may be for the best. This could ensure a basic level of care to combat gum disease, tooth decay and minor surgeries could be available to all citizens of their given province.

Again, I'm suggesting a public insurance option, not public provision of dentistry. It seems odd to me that such a vital component of our well-being is considered outside of the public interest, while other injuries and conditions are. If nothing else, it's worth asking why not, and if not, what alternatives do we offer for those with insufficient care?

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