All Canadians need access to preventive oral hygiene services. Yet for many Canadians, access to oral health care is largely tied to their workplace benefits if they have dental coverage, or out-of-pocket spending if they have the financial means. Low-income Canadians and seniors cannot afford the additional expense to receive oral hygiene services, putting them at greater risk for poor oral health and overall health.
The public health burden of untreated oral health conditions and diseases is significant. It is well documented that poor oral health is associated with a host of chronic diseases. And far too often, Canadians are visiting hospital emergency rooms for their oral health problems.
As essential primary health care providers, dental hygienists are experts in oral health promotion and disease prevention and recognize that good oral health is vital for overall health. Dental hygienists are doing their part to continue to improve the oral health of Canadians through the delivery of oral health services, education, and health promotion.
Pre-pandemic results from a public opinion poll conducted for the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association found that:
4 in 10 Canadians
do not have dental benefits. Those without coverage are most likely to be seniors, have a lower income, or live in a rural area, Atlantic Canada, or Quebec.
56% of Canadians
over age 60 have no dental
More than 1 in 5 Canadians
have not sought professional oral care in over 2 years.
Why is setting national standards for long-term care services with an oral health component so critical?
Many older adults, especially those who rely on others for care, have limited access to daily mouth care resulting in poor oral hygiene, which directly impacts the prevalence of untreated oral diseases and other chronic diseases.
Access to essential dental hygiene care contributes to overall health and well-being, and quality of life for Canadians.
CDHA is calling on federal parties to invest in new federal funding for national oral health care to ensure that seniors and low-income Canadians without dental coverage can access the preventive oral health care they need.
The next federal government can:
Take needed action to incentivize provinces and territories to develop preventive oral care supports for low-income Canadians and seniors. Provinces and territories that establish and deliver oral care support for
low-income Canadians and seniors would receive additional transfer funding from the federal government for these initiatives.
Work in collaboration with provinces and territories to make new targeted investments in oral health for residents living in long-term care. Lead the effort, in partnership with the provinces, territories, and oral health system experts, to ensure the inclusion of oral health in the development of national standards for Canada’s long-term care homes.