CDHA Key Messages – Northern Canada

  1. Northern Canadians deserve access to quality oral health care.
  2. Northern Canadians should have the right to choose where they receive professional dental hygiene services.
  3. Dental Hygiene legislation in the North must be amended to ensure the public receives quality oral health services:
    • From graduates of accredited dental hygiene programs - to ensure quality services;
    • From dental hygienists with liability insurance - for public protection; and
    • From dental hygienists who practice independently to ensure choice and increased access to care.
  4. There is a direct link between oral health and the overall health and well-being of all Canadians. Periodontal disease has been linked to a number of serious illnesses including lung disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Evidence to Support Call for Better Oral Health in Canada’s North

Health Canada, partnered with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), and three participating Inuit Regions (Government of Nunatsiavut Department of Health and Social Development, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the Inuvialuit Region Corporation) to conduct the Inuit Oral Health Survey (IOHS).

The results from the Inuit Oral Health Survey demonstrate that:

  • 65% of Inuit reported good to excellent oral health;
  • 30% of Inuit reported staying away from certain types of food because of problems with their mouth;
  • 30% of Inuit reported they had ongoing pain in their mouth;

Half of Inuit in the survey reported they had made a visit to a dental professional within the last year. Children tended to have the highest visit rates (58%) and oldest adults, the lowest (33%).

Some of the tooth decay results from the Inuit Oral Health Survey are as follows:

  • 85% of 3-5 year olds have or have had a cavity.
  • 93% of 6-11 year olds have or have had a cavity.
  • 97% of 12-19 year olds have or have had a cavity.
  • 99% of 20-39 year olds have or have had a cavity.
  • 100% of 40 year olds and up have or have had a cavity.

One Inuk out of 5 in the 40 year olds and up category have lost all of their teeth. The results of the Inuit Oral Health Survey indicate that in the Inuit population, tooth decay, a chronic disease which is preventable, is 2 to 3 times worse than that of the average Canadian. As an illustration, fifty-seven per cent (57%) of non-Aboriginal Canadian children aged 6 to 11 years of age have experienced cavities, while 93% of Inuit children aged 6 to 11 years of age have experienced cavities.

The results also indicate that the number of children affected by tooth decay is slightly less than in 1990 and the number of teeth that have been treated has increased. Now, six year old children have half the number of decayed teeth in their mouth compared to 20 years ago. The use of fluoridated toothpaste and increased access to dental care has had a positive impact. CDHA supports Health Canada’s continue focus on promoting good oral hygiene to facilitate continued progress in the overall oral health of First Nations and Inuit of Canada.

Inuit Oral Health Survey

Dental hygienists play a vital role in helping to ensure optimal oral and overall health for all Canadians.