Vulnerable Canadians and the need for targeted oral health programs

Canadians with access-to-care challenges

The Report of the Oral Health Component of the Canada Health Measures Survey reveals most Canadians have access to professional dental care and, as a result, have good oral health. In general, poor oral health is experienced by those Canadians who do not have access to regular dental care. Below, we highlight vulnerable groups, along with the key oral health challenges associated by each.

Children

The term 'children' refers to all Canadians from 0 to 18 years of age. While children between 0-6 years are often not considered in surveillance studies, oral diseases frequently begin in the preschool years. These are also important years for establishing good oral self-care behaviours. For this group, early childhood caries are of primary concern. Accordingly, universal coverage of dental services for children 18 years or under is of important consideration.

Seniors in long-term care

Most people living in long-term care facilities are already medically compromised and that new oral health methodologies and standards of oral care must be developed for those co-morbidity situations.

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples are comprised of three separate peoples with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs: First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis. Recognition of the diversity and nuances between these groups is important to future deliberations. Cultural sensitivity and understanding is essential in developing initiatives to improve oral health.

New immigrants with refugee status

These individuals have significant oral health care needs. Organized dentistry is working with governments to ensure their needs are met. Many dentists across Canada continue to volunteer their time to ensure immigrants receive the urgent care they need.

People with special needs

People with physical and developmental disabilities have special dental care needs because the ability to eat and interact socially is critical to their well-being and good health. However, they are particularly prone to dental caries and periodontitis that can have a catastrophic impact on their survival and ability to thrive.

Low-income population

A proportionally small number of Canadians cannot access oral health care due to lack of finances. Many of them do not have dental insurance, cannot access dental care or are likely to forgo or delay essential dental treatment. A strong social safety net can help reduce these health risks.

Position of the CDA

The CDA believes the provision of equitable access to care is an important goal for professional dentistry organizations. Collaboration between dentistry, health professional colleagues, charities and the federal and provincial governments continues to improve access. In addition to maintaining existing professional, charitable and non-governmental programs, new models should also be developed to further strengthen our oral health delivery system.