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A Review of System-Level and Practitioner Relevant Factors That Improve Access to Primary Dental Care for Children Living in Vulnerable Contexts

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The distribution of childhood caries and dental surgery in BC and Canada is inequitable and is a potential indicator of limited access to prevention and treatment through primary dental care. This paper focuses on different ways to improve access to primary dental care, specifically with an interest in better meeting the needs of children 0-18 years of age living in vulnerable contexts. Findings from this research indicate that policies and investment strategies that reduce the cost of primary dental care have significant impact on improving access, and that a combination of interventions that address economic, safety and health human resource related barriers to care can contribute. Innovative funding and staffing models, inter-disciplinary collaboration, the use of technology and transport, child centered and friendly care and targeted training, recruitment and retention strategies all contribute to increasing access. This paper recommends continued advocacy for policy changes to include primary dental care for children and youth as a part of the Canada Health Act as well as local planning that looks at innovative, creative, flexible and family-friendly ways of providing service, building staffing and maximizing the usage of existing infrastructure and resources.
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