Dental care is an essential part of health but for some immigrants in Canada, seeking dental treatment isn’t high on their priority list. In fact, 33 percent of immigrants reported that they had not visited a dentist in the past year, and 25% reported that they only visited a dentist for an emergency. The barriers to dental care for this population often include low income, a lack of dental insurance, and other factors. How can immigrants in Canada get access to these essential oral health care services? Here are a few options to improve their ability to seek out treatment.

Government Programs

One of the biggest changes that Canada is making when it comes to public health is improving access for all people in Canada. Since a third of Canadians don’t have dental insurance, this is a significant concern. The 2022 budget outline proposes changes to dental care that is designed to reach people who need it the most. The program will initially start to cover children under the age of 12, and then expand to those under the age of 18, as well as seniors. By 2025, the program will provide dental care for individuals or families who make less than a certain income. Since income is a huge barrier for immigrants who may not be able to afford care, this program will help individuals across the entire country be able to seek out dental care without a high cost.

One government program that may not be available for all immigrants but will be provided to immigrants who are refugees for their oral health care needs is the Interim Federal Health Program. They are automatically eligible for Type 1 benefits for 12 months. This does not provide routine dental care, but will cover an emergency dentist in Canada if needed. Since new immigrants may have severe dental needs, this program can prevent costly initial bills for essential services.

Volunteering Dental Care

Canada already has programs in place to provide low or no-cost dental care for individuals who cannot afford this healthcare. New immigrants with refugee status meet the qualifications for this need. Local governments work with organized dentistry to ensure that these needs are met. Many of these initiatives take place on a provincial level. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta Dental Association and college has two mobile dental clinics which travel around the province and provide dental services on-site by a team of dentists and hygienists. Programs can vary from region to region and immigrants can reach out to local health departments or their region’s dental associations to find out more.

Improving Awareness

Since a barrier to oral health care may not always be cost, Canada also has launched public health programs designed to encourage attention to oral health. Each province has public health signage, television advertisements, and other outreach programs that encourage people to seek out dental care. These programs can help new immigrants get connected to dental services.

Finally, while having dental services in Canada is not always easy, it is possible. With new changes to the budget coming in 2022 and a variety of programs, Canada is working to ensure that all people have access to affordable dental care. These are a few of the programs and options available to immigrants today.