As many as 3 million Ontario adults have not seen an oral health professional in more than a year, according to a new report released by the College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario (CDHO).
"The good news is that more than 75% of the people living in Ontario are receiving high-quality oral healthcare services. The bad news is that a significant number of Ontarians have limited or no access to necessary oral healthcare services," CDHO President Mike Connor said in a statement.
Children in single parent families, aboriginal and rural populations, and low-income families are most affected by lack of access to oral health services, the expert review found. Access will become more challenging as the population ages and seniors retire without the benefit of private dental insurance.
Poor oral health is increasingly being associated with diseases such as diabetes and pneumonia, and it can result in low self-esteem, fewer employment opportunities, and higher rates of poverty, according to Connor. He noted that the CDHO commissioned the review as part of its public safety mandate in the delivery of oral health services.
The review identified six opportunities for the oral health sector to consider collectively, including having Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) recognize oral health services as an important component of the overall health system, conducting more research on this issue, and increasing public awareness of the importance of oral health, particularly among disadvantaged populations.
The full report, titled "Review of Oral Health Services in Ontario," is available on the CDHO website.