Evaluation of Socioeconomic Inequalities in Oral Health in Canada

September 11, 2012

A McGill research team recently published an article in the Journal of Dental Research examining the evolution of socioeconomic inequalities in oral health status in Canada over the last 30-40 years. The analysis compared data from the Nutrition Canada National Survey (1970-72) and the 2007-09 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS).

The article highlights significant improvement in oral health outcomes in Canada and a decline in absolute socioeconomic inequalities. The prevalence of edentulism and untreated decayed teeth has decreased based on the 3 socioeconomic factors the authors examined: place of birth, education and income. An increase in the prevalence of filled teeth was apparent for native-born Canadians, those with a high school degree or less, and those with low and medium income.

JCDA contacted Dr. Hawazin Elani, lead author of the article, for her comments on the study results. “While our article suggests that inequalities in oral health in Canada have diminished over the past few decades, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that significant inequalities in oral health and oral health care in Canada remain,” she says. Dr. Elani notes that the CHMS report itself shows that while the majority of people living in Canada have good oral health and good access to oral health care, a significant minority has great difficulty accessing dental care and that these people often bear the greatest burden of oral disease.

Dr. Elani cites the vulnerable groups as the elderly, people living and working in poverty, young children, aboriginal peoples and people with disabilities.

“The dental profession bears a strong burden of responsibility to take leadership, to ensure that these vulnerable groups have better access to good quality oral health care,” concludes Dr. Elani.