The Canadian Oral Health Roundtable

The Canadian Oral Health Roundtable (COHR) is a group made up of oral health care providers, dental insurance carriers, the dental industry, dental academia, government, special interest groups and related health professionals such as physicians, pharmacists and nurses. The group agrees on the urgent need to address the oral health needs of seniors, preschool children, individuals living in poverty and the working poor, people with disabilities and recent immigrants and refugees.

Participating organizations have highlighted three specific priorities:

  1. A common position on community water fluoridation,
  2. Oral health standards in long-term care facilities,
  3. Oral health education programs for children and parents.

Community water fluoridation

In the absence of focused efforts to promote community water fluoridation, a vocal anti-fluoride movement may have influenced many Canadian cities to stop fluoridating their water. Currently, only about 37% of Canada's water supply is fluoridated. According to the COHR, "...our organizations strongly support water fluoridation as a safe, effective and cost-effective public health measure to help prevent dental cavities. The safety and efficacy of water fluoridation has been frequently studied and continues to be supported by current science and the beneficial effects of fluoride in the prevention of dental cavities have been well documented in scientific literature."

While Canada is among the world leaders in terms of overall quality of oral health, there is still work to be done.

Oral health standards in long-term care facilities

Seniors represent one of the fastest-growing groups of Canadians. The overall increasing proportion of seniors, along with their considerably higher rates of dental diseases and the presence of barriers to dental care access, justify concerns about access and delivery of dental health services for seniors, particularly those in long-term care facilities. The COHR has recommended minimum oral care requirements for all long-term care residents, including regular oral health assessments, a referral process to a dentist for examination and a daily mouth care plan implemented by staff.

Education programs for children and parents

Early childhood caries account for about one-third of all day surgeries performed on Canadian children between the ages of 1 and 5. Pediatric dentistry programs are expanding to meet the burden of care and to reduce wait times for surgeries. Targeting oral health promotion to preschoolers and their parents is an opportunity to prevent the high caries rate observed in school-age children. The earlier oral health promotion starts, the better the outcomes. Programs that educate caregivers and teachers about how to teach proper oral health self-care to children have been suggested as good health promotion models. The COHR advocates for the initiation and promotion of educational programs for children and their caregivers, which can improve the oral health of vulnerable children.