Painting a picture of the oral health of Canadians

Three-year study funded by CIHR will shed light on social determinants and inequalities with a goal to improving access to dental care and better understand the links between oral and general health

A new study Oral health and oral health care of Canadians led by Prof. Paul Allison of McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry, has received $3.3 million of funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support a collaboration with Statistics Canada’s existing Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) to gather data and address oral health-related knowledge gaps. The study is a partnership involving all ten Canadian dental schools across the country.

Paul Allison of McGill’s Faculty of Dentistry

“Canadians lack of information on the oral health and dental care of our population and how these outcomes and services are distributed and evolving over time,” says lead investigator Allison. “The most recent national survey was completed over a decade ago in 2009 and prior to that in the early 1970s. Our study will shine light on current social determinants and inequalities in oral health of Canadians. It will also provide valuable data to further enable investigated how oral and general health are linked.”

The research group will work with CHMS to add essential oral health clinical and self-reported data to the regularly scheduled surveys by the CHMS. Information will be collected from January 2022 through to December 2023 amongst Canadians aged 1 – 79 years old.

“It’s exciting to have a national group of this size involved in a research project,” says Allison. “It will allow us to establish a modern, world-class, research platform that will provide numerous opportunities for new research discovery and research training.”

“The need for this renewed national picture is made more acute by the increased interest in action to change oral health care delivery in Canada,” says Allison. “95 per cent of Canadians’ dental care is delivered privately and paid for out-of-pocket or through private dental insurance. This contributes to the significant inequalities in oral health that exist among Canadians.”

Evidence overwhelmingly proves that poor oral health has a profound impact on overall health and quality of life across all segments of society.

A database, and research and training infrastructure is planned to enable oral health researchers, students, practitioners and decision-makers to address pertinent oral health and oral health care-related research concerns. The researchers also aim to facilitate knowledge translation and exchange with appropriate stakeholders and build sustainable long-term capacity in oral health-related research.