• Dental Care is a Human Right!

    As working class people who suffer from inadequate access to dental care services in British Columbia, Canada, we started this blog with the aim of documenting our experiences to advance our campaign to have basic dental care services covered by our public health insurance, the Medical Services Plan (MSP).

    There are reams of research evidence to support our claim that dental and oral health cannot be separated from our overall physical and mental health. The Canadian Dental Association defines oral health as “a state of the oral and related tissues and structures that contribute positively to physical, mental and social well-being and to the enjoyment of life's possibilities, by allowing the individual to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment.”

    As the under and un-insured in Canada, we have lived experience to demonstrate how those without adequate access to dental care suffer.

    Working class people wait until there is trouble to access dental care, with the result that we’re more likely to suffer: loss of teeth, chronic infections, chronic pain and all its many complications, as well as an increased incidence of some chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. We also know first-hand that Poor oral and dental health impacts our: self-esteem and sense of self-worth, employment, access to education, nutrition and the pleasure of eating, emotional expression, communication and relationships, participation in community activities, quality of life, and our sense of human dignity.

    It is time to take action! It is not enough to fight the privatization of public health services, though this is a critical battle. We must also stand up and demand the expansion of public health services! Health, including dental care, is a human right. It is shameful that in a country with such wealth, 98% of the middle and upper classes have their natural teeth while 25% of the poor have no teeth at all.

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Fillings and root canal

Age 24

I’m an immigrant and I moved to Canada when I was young. My dad’s job never had dental coverage. I went to the dentist 3 years ago and I needed a filling in every single tooth. My teeth are now very weak because of it. I only started getting coverage as a student and I have to co-pay for these services. I need a root canal but have to pay an extra $1,000 for it because I have used up the amount covered by my plan.


Janete Fois’ story

White female, age 57

I am a retired nurse. I am also a Diabetic. I need my teeth cleared at least two times a year. Even with my extended coverage, I still have to pay $45.00 from my pocket to have my teeth cleansed!

George’s story

White and Native male, age 39

I had a small tooth that was pushing against my other teeth and I had to borrow money from my parents and pay a lot to have it pulled out. I’ve had a chipped tooth that was fixed when I was 10 years old, but it was broken again and has not been fixed because I couldn’t afford it; it doesn’t make a good impression at job interviews. I haven’t seen the dentist in about 20 years. I’d love to have free dental care.

Stu’s story

White male, age 24

I go to get a checkup once a year because it is the minimum. I have coverage but it is not enough for everything I need to get done. It is recommended to go to the dentist twice a year but I can’t.

Nancy’s story

Chinese female, age 60

Before my husband’s work provided health insurance, and we went to the dentist twice a year. But after he passed away, we couldn’t go as often, sometimes not even once a year. I used to have a friend who is a dentist and my family went to his clinic because he gave us discounted rates. But when he started charging us regular rates again, we stopped going. Now, when I visit China, I always get my dental work done there because it’s cheaper. The dentist says my teeth are in good condition. Of course it would be be better if we didn’t have to pay for dental care. But not if we have to pay higher taxes to get it.

Athenaise’s story

Caucasian, age 28

Dentists and orthodontic work is very expensive and my parents sacrificed a lot to pay for these costs when I was young. I was on income assistance and my employment situation was precarious, so it was difficult to budget for dental care with my other needs. Most people I know also have difficult situations. There is a generational divide on what we expect from dental care. Even getting cleaning is very expensive. The lack of funding for health care combined with low minimum wage is central to the issue.

Alejandra López Bravo’s story

Mexican, age 33

I’ve lived in Canada for 5 years but I have never been to the dentist here because it’s too expensive. I’ve had my dental work done twice when I went back to Mexico to visit. I’ve had bad experiences with dentists who are rough with my teeth, and I walked out of a dental clinic once while I was getting dental work done because the dentist was not listening to me that I was in pain. But now I have a good dentist in Mexico. I work part time jobs in Canada and I don’t have dental coverage.