A survey of Canadians (Canadian Community Health Survey) provided data on the percentage of Canadians (aged 12 and over) that have visited a dentist annually. It is clear that Canadians aged 71 and over (seniors) have access issues, primarily because of a lack of dental insurance in retirement years (Figure 1). One positive trend is that the proportion of Canadians reporting an annual dental visit has increased significantly, from 60.3% in 2001 to over 75% in 2012.
Figure 1: Percentage of Canadians Aged 12 and Over that Consulted with a Dentist or Orthodontist in Canada in 2012
Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), 2012
In Canada, income and dental insurance are the two most important determinants of dental care utilization.
There is substantial research to show that Canadians from lower-income families have worse outcomes in terms of oral health, more instances of untreated disease, lower rates of visiting a dentist, higher proportions of avoiding dental visits and greater frequency of declining recommended care because of costs.
Research shows that access to dental care may be getting more difficult for the middle-income segment of the Canadian population as well. Middle-income workers have experienced significant changes in their work environments, which includes decreases to both the amount and availability of employment-based dental insurance. In addition, the provision of public dental benefits does not always ensure access to dental care for those who are covered, since there are often complicated insurance-related barriers to accessing dental treatment.
Organized dentistry continues to work closely with the private sector to ensure that dental care is adequately insured and funded and that there are minimal barriers to care.