Good oral health is important to our overall health, yet it is often an aspect of health that does not get the attention it should. Dental care is also in a challenging position within the healthcare framework in Canada.

While necessary medical services are covered by the universal healthcare system in Canada, dental care is primarily paid for by individuals or through private health insurance. This makes the affordability and accessibility of dental care a concern for many Canadians.

In this article, we explore the current state of dental care in Canada through statistics.

Dental Care Statistics for Canadians

  • Approximately two-thirds of Canadians had seen a dentist within the last year according to a dental survey.
  • Canadians on lower incomes are less likely to have seen a dentist than Canadians on higher incomes.
  • Only just over half of people living in Newfoundland and Labrador had seen a dentist in the last year.
  • Over a third of Canadians do not have health insurance that covers dental care.
  • Around half of Canadians with no dental insurance visited a dental professional in the last 12 months.
  • Only a third of Canadians aged over 65 have dental insurance.
  • Over 3/4 of families with a net income of over $90,000 have dental insurance.
  • Over 80% of Canadians rate their oral health as good or better.
  • Almost 1/4 of Canadians have not visited a dentist because of the cost.
  • Almost 40% of Canadians have lost time in normal activities because of dental health issues.
  • France has the highest proportion of the population who visit a dentist regularly.
  • The Canadian Dental Care Plan aims to reduce barriers to dental care for Canadians without dental insurance and low household income.

Most Canadians Have Been to a Dentist in the Last Twelve Months

According to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) from 2022, 65% of Canadians had been to see a dental professional within 12 months of answering the survey. The survey included Canadians living in provinces and aged 12 or over.

The portion of Canadians who had been to see a dentist within the last 24 months was 86%. Both figures show there has been significant improvement in accessing dental care in the last 50 years. In the 1970s, less than half of Canadians visited a dentist on a regular basis.

Women were slightly more likely to have seen a dental practitioner at 68% compared to 62% of men. Canadians aged 12-17 were more likely to have been to a dentist in the previous 12 months than Canadians aged 65 or over. 79% of younger Canadians had seen a dentist compared to 60% of older Canadians.

The Canadian Dental Association recommends regular visits to the dentist to maintain healthy teeth and gums and to diagnose any issues as early as possible to prevent serious dental issues. According to the survey, a third of Canadians are not getting their teeth checked regularly.

Canadians in Lower Income Brackets Less Likely to See a Dentist

Income plays a big part in how regularly Canadians visit a dentist. The 2022 survey on dental care in Canada found that while 73% of Canadians in the highest income quintile had been to the dentist within the last year, only 49% of Canadians in the lowest income quintile had done so.

There were also differences between those who were Canadian-born, non-permanent residents, and recent immigrants. Among the Canadian-born population, 67% had been to the dentist in the previous 12 months compared to 46% of non-permanent residents, and 56% of recent immigrants.

Provincial Differences in Accessing Dental Care

The residents of some provinces are less likely than the Canadian average to visit the dentist. In Newfoundland and Labrador, 55% of residents had seen the dentist in the year before the dental care survey. Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Quebec were also below the average at 60%, 62%, and 62% respectively.

More Than a Third of Canadians Do Not Have Dental Insurance

One of the main reasons Canadians have private health insurance is for the dental coverage it provides. While many Canadians have private dental insurance plans that reduce out-of-pocket dental care expenses, 35% of Canadians do not have health insurance. This statistic is in alignment with the portion of Canadians who had not seen a dentist in the last 12 months.

At the time the CCHS was conducted, 55% of Canadians reported having had their dental expenses paid by private dental insurance including private plans or plans provided by employers, colleges, or universities.

Over 3/4 of Canadians with Dental Insurance Visited a Dentist Within the Last Year

Canadians with dental insurance are more likely to have seen a dentist within the last 12 months than Canadians without private insurance. 76% of Canadians with private dental health insurance had seen a doctor in the 12 months leading up to the survey, while only 51% of Canadians without insurance had seen a dentist. Among Canadians who had public insurance, such as a government-paid plan, 62% had seen a dental professional in the last 12 months.

Older Canadians Are Less Likely to Have Dental Insurance

In Canada, dental insurance coverage varies by age group. Canadians who are aged 65 or older are the least likely to have dental insurance with only 33% of the age group reporting having insurance covering dental care. In addition, 58% of Canadians in this age group reported not having had any of their dental care expenses covered by any health insurance plan. The most likely age group to have dental insurance is people aged 35-59 at 69%.

Dental Insurance Cover Also Varies by Area and Income

Dental insurance cover also varied by area with the residents of Quebec the most likely to report not having dental insurance at 49% compared to 31% outside of Quebec. Canadians living in rural areas were less likely to have dental insurance than Canadians living in urban areas at 41% compared to 33%.

The lower the income, the more likely Canadian families are not to have dental insurance. Almost half, 48%, of Canadian families with net income below $70,000 have no dental insurance. The portion of families that have no dental insurance is 34% among those earning between $70,000 and $89,999 and 23% among families with an income of $90,000+.

Almost a Quarter of Canadians Have Avoided Dental Examinations Because of Cost

The survey also revealed that 40% of Canadians without dental insurance had avoided going to a dentist because of the cost of dental care. This was almost three times more than among Canadians who had private dental insurance at 14%. Overall, 24% of Canadians had not gone to the dentist because of the cost.

Among First Nations people, the Métis population was more likely than average to avoid dental visits because of the cost at 28%. Overall, 22% of First Nations people living off reserve said they had avoided dental visits due to the cost.

People from West Asian backgrounds were the most likely ethnic group at 38% to report cost as a barrier to visiting a dental practitioner, followed by the Arab population at 34%, Latin Americans also at 34%, South Asians at 29%, Blacks at 28%, and Chinese and Filipino populations both at 27%.

In addition, immigrants, non-permanent residents, and established immigrants at 33%, 32%, and 26%, respectively, were more likely to avoid dental visits because of cost than people born in Canada where only 22% reported the cost of dental care a barrier to receiving oral health care.

Most Canadians Rate Their Oral Health As Good or Better

84% of Canadians rate their dental health as good or excellent and 74% report they brush at least twice a day. In addition, 28% floss five or more times a week.

Around two-thirds of Canadians have no dental needs, while 34% of Canadians aged 6-79 have some sort of dental treatment need identified. The need for dental treatments is higher (47%) among Canadians on lower incomes than among the higher-income group (26%). 5.5% of Canadians reported having an untreated coronal cavity while 6.4% no longer had their own teeth.

The Cost of Oral Health Issues

39.1% of Canadians have lost time in normal activities because of oral health issues. It is estimated that around 4.15 million working days are lost per year because of dental visits or dental issues-related sick days. In addition, around 2.26 million school days are lost per year for the same reasons. However, there has been a significant decrease in the level of dental decay over the last 50 years.

How Does Canada Compare With Other Countries?

Canada compares quite favourably to other countries when looking at the portion of the population who visit the dentist regularly. For example, Canada had a higher proportion of people who had visited a dentist in the last 12 months than New Zealand (51.2%), Spain (44.9%), and the United States (42.4%).

However, countries including France (74.9%), the Czech Republic (71%), the United Kingdom, and the Slovak Republic (68.8%) had bigger portions of the population who go to the dentist regularly.

Canada also does well when comparing the DMFT index in the OECD countries. The index measures the number of decayed teeth, teeth lost due to caries, and filled teeth in 12-year-olds. In Canada, the DMFT was 1.02 which was better than the 1. 6 average for the OECD countries. Canada also has a low prevalence of severe chronic periodontitis. However, it has a moderate incidence of oral and lip cancers.

Germany and the United Kingdom have the lowest DMFT index at 0.7 in both countries. Japan has a higher than average DMFT index at 1.7 and Norway and New Zealand are the same as the average.

Canadian Dental Care Plan Aims to Improve Dental Care Coverage in Canada

The Canadian federal government launched the Canadian Dental Care Plan (CDCP) in 2023. The care plan aims to provide dental care coverage for around nine million Canadians with a household income below $90,000 and no dental insurance. The $13 billion plan, which is administered by Health Canada, aims to make oral care more accessible by reducing cost barriers. The plan also includes $4.4 billion in ongoing permanent funding and no co-pays for Canadians with a family income under $70,000.

Conclusion

The importance of oral health on overall health is well known, yet many Canadians do not visit a dental professional regularly. However, the portion of Canadians who visit a dentist annually or bi-annually has increased significantly since the 1970s when less than half visited a dentist regularly.

While most Canadians report their dental health as good or excellent, around a third have identified oral health needs. Cost is a major barrier to some Canadians to access dental care, but it also varies depending on factors such as age, location, and ethnicity.

The Canadian government aims to make dental care more accessible for all Canadians and in 2023 launched the Canadian Dental Care Plan aiming to reduce the cost barriers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canada has a universal health care plan but most dental treatments are not covered. However, many Canadians have private health care insurance which covers dental care. Canadians who do not have dental care included in an insurance plan will need to pay for it themselves.

Most Canadians should visit the dentist at least once a year. However, this can vary depending on the condition of the person’s oral health. Some people may benefit from seeing a dentist every six months while for others visiting a dentist once every two years may be enough.

A survey from 2022 shows that 65% of Canadians had visited a dentist within the twelve months leading up to the survey. 86% of Canadians had been to the dentist within the last 24 months. This is a higher portion than in many comparable countries.

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