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Can J Public Health. 2010 Nov-Dec;101(6):481-5.

Sorry doctor, I can't afford the root canal, I have a job: Canadian dental care policy and the working poor.

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Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, 515C-124 Edward Street, Toronto, ON M6C 1G6.



In Canada, most dental care is privately financed through employment-based insurance, with only a small amount of care supported by governments for groups deemed in social need. Recently, this low level of public financing has been linked to problems in accessing dental care, and one group that has received major attention are the working poor (WP), or those who maintain regular employment but remain in relative poverty. The WP highlight a significant gap in Canadian dental care policy, as they are generally not eligible for either public or private insurance.


This is a mixed methods study, comprised of an historical review of Canadian dental care policy and a telephone interview survey of WP Canadian adults.


By its very definitions, Canadian dental care policy recognizes the WP as persons with employment, yet incorrectly assumes that they will have ready access to employment-based insurance. In addition, through historically developed biases, it also fails to recognize them as persons in social need. Our telephone survey suggests that this policy approach has important impacts in that oral health and dental care outcomes are significantly mitigated by the presence of dental insurance.


Canadian dental care policy should be reassessed in terms of how it determines need in order to close a gap that holds negative consequences for many Canadian families.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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