Canadians' oral health has improved since 1972, says the Canada Health Measures Survey (CHMS) Oral Health component released by Health Canada Tuesday. There has also been a large decline in the cavity experience of children. But there was also evidence of inequalities in oral health and access to care.
For the first time in recent history the state of Canadians' oral health has been formally studied in communities across the country and the results indicate that most Canadians experience good oral health. 84% of Canadians reported their oral health as good or excellent, and three in four Canadians see their dentist yearly.
A daily regimen of brushing and flossing is an important part of good oral health while equitable access to professional dental care is essential for diagnosis, prevention and treatment leading to good oral and general health, said the Canadian Dental Association (CDA).
"Canada has one of the best oral health care systems in the world," said CDA President, Dr. Ron Smith. "The survey confirms our thinking - that Canadians in general have good oral health and benefit from regular visits to the dentist and from maintaining a regular routine of brushing and flossing. We are thrilled that the vast majority of Canadians are doing well and we will continue our advocacy efforts so that in the future even more than 84% of Canadians will report their oral health as good or excellent."
Significantly, in 1970-72, Nutrition Canada found 23.6 of adults aged 19 and older were edentulous — had lost all their natural teeth — compared with 6.4 per cent in the latest study.
Still the flip side is that 17% avoid going to the dentist owing to high cost. And of those who did visit the dentist, 16.5% rejected suggested care due to costs.
Canadians with lower incomes and with at least one natural tooth, 46.6%, required one or more kinds of cure compared with 25.6% of those with higher levels of income.
The findings were based on interviews with more than 5,600 Canadians aged six to 79 from 2007 to 2009. Of these, 5,586 were examined by dentists for the report.
Age, income, country of birth and risk factors such as smoking and regular visits for care were also strongly associated with oral conditions, the report's authors said.
"The real challenge is not the measurement of the problems but taking effective action to address them," the report's summary concluded. "The survey results provide a platform from which to explore policy options, such as the need for achieving improved access to care and improved oral health."