Making Connections, Improving Access to Care

April 4, 2013



Dr. Robert Sutherland

One of CDA’s goals the past few years was to build relationships and make connections. During the past year, CDA held a number of very successful meetings across the country and abroad. We met formally with CDA’s corporate members, the Canadian Dental Specialties Association, Association of Canadian Faculties of Dentistry, Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation, Canadian Dental Hygienists Association,—and for the first time in recent memory—Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Pharmacists Association and Dental Industry Association of Canada. We also dialogued with the international dental community through the FDI World Dental Federation and American Dental Association.

Some might ask, “What’s the purpose of all these meetings?”

At the heart of all health care professions is a collection of shared values of excellence, professionalism and social responsibility. We share a common vision of delivering the highest level of health care to all members of society. To achieve this vision, health care professionals join together, within and beyond their professions, to collectively exchange resources and information.

Although the 2007–2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey indicated that nearly 75% of Canadians surveyed visited a dental professional in the past year and close to 86% did so in the past 2 years, about 17% avoided seeking professional care due to costs. If one considers those not targeted in the survey protocol (including institutionalized or homebound seniors, people with special needs, Aboriginal peoples, preschool children and those who are medically compromised) the number of Canadians not receiving adequate care rises.

CDA strongly believes in timely access to high-quality oral health care for all Canadians. As a first step, CDA’s National Coordinating Working Group on Access to Care has made significant progress. The working group developed focused strategies to reduce hospital wait times for children being treated for early childhood caries, encourage first dental visits by age 1 and advocate for standardized legislation for long-term care facilities to ensure that residents are provided with daily oral health care and access to regular professional care. To help meet the needs of medically complex patients, CDA has decided to initiate an advocacy program targeting funding for dental residency programs. CDA also remains very active in advocating for improved access to care for First Nations peoples.

Access to care is a complex, multifactorial problem; a problem so big that one group cannot address it alone. We need to develop partnerships within the dental profession and with other oral health care providers and professional groups, federal and provincial governments, community agencies and others. We need to explore alternative models of care and funding, and develop a better understanding of the issues through more research. We need to look at the barriers to care and determine the best ways to deliver quality care.

Solutions will not be easy. We must remain realistic and understand that improvements will take time and require hard work, commitment and persistence in overcoming the inevitable challenges along the way. To be successful in reducing the inequalities in oral health and access to care, all of those with the capacity to contribute will need to collaborate in the development of a coordinated national plan. Everything we have done as an association and profession has brought us to this point. The time to take action has come and we must seize the opportunity. Stay tuned for the next chapter.


Robert Sutherland, BSc, DDS, MSc, Dip Perio



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