Dental care should be part of basic health care for all Canadians, particularly for the lowest earners, say UBC researchers, after conducting a new study on oral health.
Researchers looked at 567 patients of four primary health care clinics in Ontario and B.C. that served many low-income and Aboriginal residents.
Some 46% of participants had fair to poor oral health, and 44% said they sometimes or often experienced pain in their teeth and mouth.
“Those numbers are three times higher than the general Canadian population…clearly, the people we interviewed face tremendous oral health issues,” said UBC nursing professor Annette Browne, who led the study.
These findings highlight the need for affordable dental services for some of Canada’s most economically disadvantaged groups, according to co-researcher and UBC PhD graduate Bruce Wallace.
“Many low-income groups have no dental insurance or have only public dental health benefits, and therefore they’re highly likely to forego dental work due to costs and other barriers,” said Wallace.
“No one should have to depend on charitable dentistry or volunteer dental clinics. We need to integrate oral health benefits within universal health insurance and consider offering dental care in alternate health care settings, such as community health care centres.”
The study was carried out as part of EQUIP, a five-year research program, which looks at enhancing health care access for vulnerable populations.