Nearly three-quarters of Canadians see a dentist each year, but 17 per cent avoid the dentist because of cost, a new federal report indicates.
The Canada Health Measures Survey report on oral health was released Monday by Health Canada, Statistics Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“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,” Dr. Ron Smith, president of the Canadian Dental Association, said in a release responding to the report.
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Eighty-four cent of Canadians surveyed reported their oral health as good or excellent, and 74.5 per cent Canadians said they made a dental visit in the previous 12 months, the report’s authors said.
But there was also evidence of inequalities in oral health and access to care.
Overall, 17.3 per cent of people surveyed said they avoid dental visits. Of those who did go to the dentist, 16.5 per cent declined recommended care because of costs.
More lower-income Canadians with at least one natural tooth — 46.6 per cent —needed one or more types of treatment compared with 25.6 per cent of those with higher 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.
The report suggests Canadians’ oral health has improved since 1972, the Canadian Dental Association said. 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.
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.”