Checking the fine print... more detail
Last week, the College l about private sector companies that, for a fee, provide patient referrals to dental offices. Many of these third-party companies automatically exclude patients on government-sponsored dental plans by applying a filter or screening feature.
We received questions about this email and are writing to you today to both clarify our position and help answer those questions.
With the Canada Dental Benefit enhancing access to care and a potential new program from the provincial government, the issue of patient access to oral healthcare is more prominent than ever. We wanted to alert any dentists participating in the referral programs to be cautious about the features that may result in a blanket exclusion of patients because they are on social or government programs.
Regardless of any arrangements with corporations, dentists remain responsible for their professional, legal and ethical obligations, so it’s important for dentists to determine for themselves whether a service they use from a third party aligns with their obligations.
Can dentists refuse to accept patients covered by government sponsored plans?
To date, the College has left decisions about accepting patients to the discretion of dentists, except when a patient has an oral health care emergency.
Some dentists have used this discretion to adopt office policies of refusing to treat any patient covered by a social or government program. Such patients are contacting the College with stories of how they are struggling to get access to oral health care. Dentists are contacting the College too, upset that their colleagues are refusing to see patients on social or government programs.
Access to oral health care is a key strategic priority for the College, and will continue to be so over our new strategic plan 2023-25. In light of that, and against the backdrop efforts from the federal and Ontario governments to enhance access to care through new programs, the College intends to engage the profession, the public and other stakeholders in a discussion about dentists' legal and ethical duties and obligations to facilitate and support access to care.
Improving access for oral health care will directly support patients’ overall health and well-being. Patients on social or government programs need support from the dental profession, and dentists who are currently accepting patients on social or government programs need the support of their colleagues.
The College wants to work with you to share patients’ experiences and expectations and to determine a way forward that engages the entire profession.
Where do I find a dentist that accepts government programs?
If you are unable to accept new patients, please consider helping patients find a dentist. College staff do not have information that will enable them to provide direct referrals to specific dentists.
However, we do provide some information to assist patients.
Our website has links to low cost or specialized dental clinics in the province:
You can also contact the Ontario Dental Association for help locating a dentist in your area.