September 15, 2010
By W. Michael Thomas, CFP, CLU, CH.F.C., R.F.P.

A national survey was recently conducted by Statistics Canada with data collected for the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). This information was gathered from about 6,000 people in 15 communities, who were randomly selected across Canada between March 2007 and February 2009. This information provides an important update to the last clinically measured national survey of oral health from 1972.

In the initial phase, CHMS collected information using interviews related to nutrition, smoking habits, alcohol use, medical history, oral health, current health status, demographic and socio-economic characteristics.

The second phase included more direct measurements, such as blood pressure, height, weight, blood and urine samples, clinical oral examination and physical fitness.

Some sample findings from the oral health component of the CHMS include:
  • Dental insurance prevalence: 62 per cent of Canadians have private dental insurance; six per cent have public (government-funded) insurance, and 32 per cent have no dental insurance.
  • Almost three-quarters of Canadians saw a dentist in the previous nine months compared with almost 50 per cent in the last national survey in 1972.
  • Annual visit rate for check-ups or treatment is greatly influenced by income (85 per cent higher income vs. 58 per cent lower income) and insurance (84 per cent privately insured vs. 56 per cent not insured).
  • A total of 36 per cent of non-insured people avoid visiting a dental professional within the last year because of costs vs. nine per cent for people privately insured.
  • An estimated 4.15 million working days for adults are lost annually due to dental visits or dental sick days.
  • Prevalence of decay on permanent teeth in children 6-11 years old has fallen from 74 per cent in the 1972 survey to less than 25 per cent.
  • Rate of toothless adults has fallen from 24 per cent in 1972 to six per cent.
  • About 0.8 per cent of  adult Canadians have one or more implants and about 17 per cent have one or more dentures or bridges.
  • Deeper periodontal pockets are more prevalent as age increases. About 8.9 per cent of Canadians have one or more periodontal pockets that are 5 mm or more deep. (Pocket dept of 4 or 5 mm is considered moderate disease, while pocket depth of 6 mm or more is considered severe disease).
  • Oral conditions are strongly associated with smoking.  Dental examiners found that 49 per cent of current smokers have some sort of treatment need identified compared to 30 per cent of those who have never smoked.
  • A total of 27 per cent of  Canadians with private insurance require treatment (mostly restorations 15 per cent).
  • The survey found that 73 per cent of  Canadians brush twice a day, and 28 per cent floss five or more times per week

Future analysis

The results of this survey may be used by researchers with future analysis to investigate the association of oral health with major health concerns such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease and exposure to environmental contaminants.

The importance of good oral health has been a popular topic for quite some time and Canadians are listening, as they spent about $12.8 billion or about $360 per capita on professional dental care. These costs have increased faster than other conditions, such as mental health and cardiovascular disease.
If you have any questions, contact Michael Thomas at the Investment Guild, 1-800-459-8990,
W. Michael Thomas is a partner with Investment Guild, endorsed provider of the HortProtect Group Insurance Program, and is a director of Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation.