Survey Reveals Disparities in Oral Health of First Nations

October 30, 2012

Results from the First Nations Oral Health Survey (FNOHS), reveal disparities in the oral health of First Nations compared to other Canadians. Across all age groups, the oral health status of First Nations Canadians living on reserve is poorer than non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Dental disease and limited access to dental services are major concerns. According to the survey:

  • Less than one half (46.8%) of First Nations age 40 and older had visited a dentist in the past year, compared to approximately three-quarters (76.5%) of non-Aboriginal Canadians.
  • About 46% of First Nations in remote communities could not afford the transportation costs to access dental services.
  • Nearly 86% of preschoolers experienced early childhood caries—estimated to be 3 to 5 times the amount of tooth decay of non-Aboriginal children.
  • In children aged 6-11 years, 93.9% of First Nations had at least one tooth affected by dental caries (mean count of 6.58), compared to 55.2% of non-Aboriginals (mean count of 2.28).
  • In First Nations adults, nearly 24% had one or more untreated root caries, compared to almost 7% of non-Aboriginal Canadians.
  • Dental care was needed in 83.1% of First Nations over the age of 6, compared to 33.9% of non-Aboriginals.

“Access to care for First Nations Canadians continues to be a concern,” says Dr. Robert Sutherland, CDA president. “The FNOHS data show that lack of access to regular dental care results in poor oral health. CDA will continue to advocate for improved access to care for First Nations Canadians.”

The survey, released on September 27, 2012, fills an important information gap on the overall status of oral health across Canada. Although the previously released Canadian Health Measures Survey (CMHS) covered most of the country, it excluded some segments of the population, including First Nations living on reserves. The release of the FNOHS marks the first time that comparisons could be made between First Nations and other Canadians. This baseline data will help establish priorities for improving the oral health of First Nations through oral health promotion, prevention and treatment.

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