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How many Canadians visit the dentist every year?
A new report from Statistics Canada shows in 2022, nearly one-third of Canadians went a year without seeing the dentist.
The data, from a Canadian Community Health Survey, found 65 per cent of Canadians reported having seen a dentist or dental hygienist in the 12 months before the survey.
More women reported seeing a dentist within the year compared to men, the survey found, adding young people (aged 12 to 17) were more likely to see a dentist compared to seniors (aged 65 and up).
The report also said more than one in three Canadians don't have dental insurance.
Of those who do have private dental insurance, 76 per cent saw a dental professional in the past 12 months. Of those who don't, only 51 per cent did.
"Furthermore, 40 per cent of people without dental insurance reported having avoided going to a dental professional due to the cost, which was nearly three times more than those with private dental insurance (14 per cent)," the report read.
Overall, one quarter of Canadians reported avoiding going to the dentist because of the cost.
Why are people talking about it?
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the plan will roll out end of this year, and will be fully implemented by 2025. It's set to provide dental coverage for up to nine million uninsured Canadians who have an annual family net income of less than $90,000 in getting oral health care.
According to the Canadian Dental Association, dental examinations are "an important part of maintaining healthy teeth and gums and the frequency should be determined in consultation with your dentist."
For many people, this means a check-up every six months (twice a year), adding "the goal is to catch small problems early." However, how often you should go depends on your oral health needs.
Benefits of biannual visits still unsupported
"Going to the dentist every six months, as a rule, is similarly unsupported. The dental hygienist is there to scrape off the tartar that builds up in the average of six months. Higher-risk people, who should go to the dentist more, include smokers, pregnant women, diabetics, people with immune systems that are susceptible to bacterial infection, people who currently have gum disease, people who often get cavities or plaque problems," wrote Maggie Lange for GQ magazine.
"For several decades some have been arguing that the choice of six months as the ideal space between visits is rather arbitrary. ... In 2003, a systematic review examined the research that had then been done. The results were mixed. Some studies found no difference between the number of decayed teeth, fillings or missing teeth in those who attended the dentist frequently and those who didn't, while other studies found fewer fillings in those who went a lot. When it came to gums, most research found no difference in the amount of bleeding, plaque or gingivitis in permanent teeth," wrote Claudia Hammond in an investigation for the BBC.
Dentists can prevent problems
"With just a mirror, you can see how your teeth are looking, but underneath your gums, a lot can be going on without you even realizing it. Dentists not only solve problems, they can prevent them. Potential problems they can spot include the onset of gum disease and dental decay. When it comes to your oral health, it is important you are proactive and seeing your dentist regularly so that they can catch any issues early, before they become a problem," explained the Oral Health Foundation.
"The best way to prevent dental disease and pain is early detection so you can get in while it's easy to fix. ... So if you're not able to go, that can lead to some pretty serious consequences," Canadian Dental Association President Dr. Heather Carr told Global News.
"Research has established a relationship between income inequality and oral health. People who don't have dental insurance or the ability to pay for regular dental visits tend to experience more cavities, more frequent dental injuries and increased rates of gum disease," Healthline reported.
"This is a complicated subject and may be due to inequities and barriers to health care, but it does imply that going to the dentist regularly affects your dental health, as well as your health overall."
Data useful to assess barriers
"At the very least we can start to tell more stories about the differences these populations face. ... We want to make sure these numbers are available as a starting point to detect these differences and spur on further analysis to assess what other mitigating factors are there that could be leading to the difference," dentist Dr. Heather Carr told Global News.