Thursday, January 1, 2015
Oral health is essential to overall health and quality of life (World Health Organization [WHO], 2012). However, in Canada over half of children and the majority of adults have experienced oral diseases (Health Canada, 2010). Practicing good oral health behaviours consists of routine oral hygiene, a nutritious diet and receiving professional dental care. Oral health diseases are largely preventable through these practices, yet the rate of tooth decay remains high. Having dental insurance is a valuable asset to overcome the financial barriers of costly professional dental services, yet 32% of Canadians do not have access to dental insurance (Health Canada, 2010). Those who have the most difficulty accessing and affording dental insurance are also those who experience the highest level of oral health problems (Canadian Academy of Health Sciences [CAHS], 2014). These vulnerable populations include: children, low-income adults and families, seniors, and people living in rural and remote areas (Canadian Dental Association [CDA], 2010).
Poor oral health status and access to dental care are important issues in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG). This report explores the current oral health status and barriers to good oral health faced by WDG residents.
• By Grade 2, almost half of WDG children will have experienced tooth decay.
• Approximately one fifth of WDG residents do not brush their teeth twice per day as recommended.
• Approximately one third of WDG residents experience teeth sensitivity and one tenth experience bleeding gums.
• Income is a barrier to receiving oral care: 70% of low-income Guelph residents reported that dental treatment was recommended to them which they cannot afford.
• Having dental insurance helps to overcome the cost of dental care. However, approximately two thirds of WDG residents and less than one third of seniors have dental insurance.
• Only 70% of WDG residents have seen a dentist in the last 3 years.
• Poor oral health is associated with heart disease, diabetes, premature delivery, low birth weights and negative social impacts. In a survey of low-income Guelph residents, half reported their poor oral health affect how they feel about themselves, and over a quarter report their oral health needs affect their social relationships and mental health status.
WDG Public Health delivers oral health education and preventive services to address these concerns among those most at risk. Although local public health initiatives make a difference in the lives of residents more work is required to improve the oral health status of children, low-income adults and seniors in WDG. Evidence presented in this report provides support for the following recommendations to improve oral health status and access to dental care among residents in WDG and Ontario. WDG Public Health will engage with our partners, where applicable, to pursue these recommendations.
- Support advocacy strategies to improve access to oral health care for those facing barriers including seniors, low-income individuals and families, and those from priority populations.
- Support education initiatives that encourage evidence-based behaviours that prevent oral disease.
- Support the expansion of oral health outreach programs to make oral care and education more accessible to vulnerable families. Rural portable oral health clinics are one example of an outreach initiative that provides oral care to children with limited access to oral health programs.
- Continue to provide preventive services through public health clinics to children for whom access to oral health care is difficult, including those from low-income families and other priority populations.
- Expand the provision of the Fluoride Varnish Initiative in schools, based upon identified need.
- Advocate for improved provincial and national data regarding the oral health status of the population to support evidence-based planning and programming at local levels.
- Investigate opportunities to include adult pregnant women who do not have dental benefits into a publicly-funded model in order to promote optimal prenatal oral health and improved oral health for newborns and young children.