Most Canadian youth visit dentists, but lack of insurance a barrier

Some Canadians under the age of 18 are two months away from being able to apply for the national dental care plan, but data from Statistics Canada shows a lack of insurance is preventing nearly one-quarter of those five to 17 from visiting a dental professional.

According to a report released Wednesday, 89.6 per cent of Canadian children and youth aged five to 17 in 2019 had visited a dental professional in the previous 12 months.

When it comes to the insurance status of those visiting the dentist, the numbers differ with about 93 per cent who had dental insurance making a trip, while 78.5 per cent who were uninsured did the same.

“It shows how families are prioritizing. You know, the oral health care for their children. And sometimes even over themselves,” Canadian Dental Hygienists Association manager of professional practice Donna Wells told Global News.

The StatCan data was collected using the 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth and took place between Feb. 11 and Aug. 2, 2019, before the Canadian Dental Care Plan or the interim Canada Dental Benefit were rolled out.The report also notes it’s not just insurance that can be a barrier for youth, with 60.8 per cent of those who had visited a dentist reported having cost-related issues to see a professional compared to 92.2 per cent who had no such barriers.

According to the agency, issues such as financial income can also be a factor, noting that the prevalence of those five to 17 being unable to see a professional sat at about 15 per cent for those whose adjusted net family income was less than $70,000.

Wells said with that number dropping due to insurance or cost, the hope is that the federal plan could help remove some of the financial barriers Canadians are facing.

“Those families that haven’t been able to access oral health care in the last few years, in their lifetimes even, will now have an opportunity to see a dental professional and to see a dental hygienist to receive oral health care, to receive oral health instruction,” Wells said.

While the number of Canadian youth visiting the dentist is relatively high  it’s higher than a StatCan report in 2023 which showed less than 70 per cent of adults had visited within 12 months — that number sees a steep decline in those under the age of five.

Almost 80 per cent of those one year old made such a trip, though it did increase to 16.4 per cent for four-year-olds.

Alberta Dental Association president Dr. Jenny Doerksen said educating parents to, in turn, help educate their children as they grow can be one of the best methods of preventing negative impacts on dental health.

“So if we can prevent dental decay early on, [it] definitely will cost less money later on to save them,” she said.

We want to educate our public members as well as young population so that they can learn how to brush and floss on and more effectively.”

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