The State of Oral Health in Canada

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Executive Summary

Good oral health is essential to overall health and quality of life. Good oral health enables us to speak, smile, breathe, drink, and eat. The oral cavity also plays a central role in the intake of basic nutrition and protection against microbial infections.

As the national voice for the dental profession, the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) is pleased to present this overview of oral health in Canada. In the following pages, you will find insights and information on:

  • the state of oral health around the world;
  • how Canada compares against other countries;
  • information on funding models, statistics on dental usage and access to oral care;
  • key trends;
  • priority areas for improving oral health;
  • programs being spearheaded by provincial dental associations and more.

Based on a wide range of metrics, we can state definitively that Canada is among the world leaders when it comes to the overall oral health of its citizens. In addition to ranking favourably in terms of oral health indicators such as decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT), severe chronic gum disease and instances of oral and lip cancer, Canadians also enjoy among the best access to oral health care in the world. Three out of every four Canadians visit a dental professional at least once per year, and 84% of Canadians believe they have good or excellent oral health. In Canada, wait times to see a dentist and receive treatment are among the shortest in the world. And for most Canadians, choice and availability of dentists is a non-issue.

However, there is still work that needs to be done in order to improve the state of oral health in Canada for specific groups. Like many other countries around the world, Canada faces challenges providing the most vulnerable segments of its population (e.g. seniors, low-income populations, people with special needs, children, Indigenous peoples, new immigrants with refugee status, etc.) with the oral health services they require. Research indicates that poor oral health is experienced by those Canadians who do not have access to regular dental care. In the following pages, we outline some of these challenges, along with work being done to address them.