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Although Canada has a public health system for its citizens, most Canadians do not receive general dental health care coverage under The Canada Health Act (CHA). The CHA outlines federal guidelines for publicly-funded health care insurance.
If Canadians want to visit a dental practice, there are four primary means of access:
Approximately 65% of Canadians can cover partial, if not all, dental-related expenses due to dental insurance.
In terms of oral health, Canada is among the leading nations to rank favorably in decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT), advanced gum disease, and oral and lip cancer instances. Additionally, wait times for a dental visit and treatment are minimal when compared to most other countries.
However, it is important to highlight that when Canadians come from low-income households, the likelihood of seeking a consultation from a dental professional is less than for those individuals who live in higher-income households. This holds true even for individuals with and without insurance.
Compared to the higher-income group, Canadians from lower-income households had a twofold increase in dental health needs identified.
As a result, certain population segments are at a much higher risk of oral health care issues like root canals.
The Indigenous peoples comprise the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. Although different in cultures, heritages, and practices, these groups are vulnerable populations in terms of poor oral health.
For instance, the 2008-2009 Inuit Oral Health Survey (IOHS) depicts the Inuit's dental health panorama. Although the Inuit population is commonly younger than the Canadian population, these individuals reported an elevated frequency of food avoidance and oral pain. Dental check-ups were not common in this group, while coronal caries were extremely high.
There is an association between poor oral health and other medical conditions, such as diabetes and respiratory illnesses.
Elderly people living in long-term care facilities present with underlying comorbidities. Oral health methodologies and standards of oral care are necessary for these individuals to minimize further risk to overall well-being.
This vulnerable segment of the population can also include low-income senior citizens who do not have enough personal funds to pay for dental health services.
These individuals present with oral health care problems when they arrive in the country. Different dental health care providers volunteer their time and services to provide immigrants of this status with the treatments they need.
Dental caries and periodontitis (serious gum disease that can destroy bone and undermine tooth support) are more common in this population. However, as the ability to eat and interact socially is important for these individuals’ well-being, maintaining optimal oral health care is necessary.
While the cost of dental care in Canada has increased over time, there has not been a significant change in incomes for those in the lowest economic populations for the last 25 years.
Some Canadians who fall within the low-income brackets cannot afford the growing costs of dental care. Lack of dental insurance or access to dental care increases the risk of worsening oral health in these individuals. A government-funded dental program can offset this negative scenario.
Children include all Canadians aged 0 to 18 years. Oral health problems tend to arise between 0-6 years, including early childhood caries. Fostering proper oral self-care behavior while providing universal coverage of children's dental services can lead to better oral health in the long term.
Each province and community will offer different oral health care services. If you are interested in discovering more about your dental care options, you can take a look at the following websites or contact your local public health unit:
It is estimated that 4.15 million working-days for adults are lost annually due to dental visits or dental sick-days,
It is estimated that 2.26 million school-days are lost annually due to dental visits or dental sick-days
Healthy Teeth, Healthy Lives - Inuit Oral Health Action Plan 2013 . Health Canada, 2013, www.itk.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ITK_OralHealth_English.pdf.
Shaw, Jodi L, and Julie W Farmer. An Environmental Scan of Publicly Financed Dental Care in Canada: 2015 Update. Canadian Association of Public Health Dentistry, 2015, www.caphd.ca/sites/default/files/FINAL - 2015 Environmental Scan - ENGLISH - 16 Feb 16.pdf.
The State of Oral Health in Canada, Canadian Dental Association, Mar. 2017, www.cda-adc.ca/stateoforalhealth/.