With federal dental program set to soon expand, questions arise of if there will be enough dentists to treat patients

Canada’s dental care plan will soon expand, but there are concerns about who will be offering care.

Next month, children under 18 and people with disabilities who qualify will be able to sign up for the government program. 

Winnipeg dentist, Dr. George Loewen said he never thought a program like this would happen in his lifetime, and believes it’s going to be a big help. 

“I think preventatively, in the long run, it’s going to take care of people and reduce the amount of actual dentist care,” said Loewen. “It’s just going to be preventative.”

People with no access to dental insurance, and have a family income of less than $90,000 qualify for coverage, but it’s unclear who will offer the care. 

Sun Life Insurance, which is managing the plan for Ottawa, only lists 23 family dentists near Winnipeg that are taking part in the program.

Dr. Daron Baxter, the president of the Manitoba Dental Association, is one of the many not taking part. 

“This plan requires dentists to enter into a contractual relationship with the government. And that differs than other plans.” 

If they don’t enter into that relationship, dentists worry patients will have to find a new dentist who will. 

Baxter said, “We’d like to see a wide ability for patients to see their current practitioner and not be restricted to specific lists of providers.”

That’s about to happen, according to the federal government. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for federal Health Minister Mark Holland said, “There are now more than 10,000 oral health providers that have signed up for the CDCP, with over 120,000 seniors receiving care since coverage came into effect this month. We are very pleased with the uptake so far and these numbers show that our plan to deliver affordable dental care to Canadians is working.

“Every day, there are more and more providers that are signing up for the CDCP. Minister Holland has been travelling across the country to meet with providers to listen to their concerns with the Plan and encourage them to sign up. We are working hard to combat disinformation and misinformation being spread about the plan to dissuade oral health professionals from signing up.”

Once the program expands, it’s not known when coverage will begin, with the spokesperson saying an exact date will be announced soon. 

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