Pledge… more than a furniture polish

by Catherine Wilson, Editor

What is health? Is it complete mental, physical and social well-being? Why does ‘quality of life’ matter in healthcare? Are we nearing a day when teeth will be grown in labs? Will a convergence is specialties benefit public health?

“Many conditions that plague the body are manifested in the mouth, a readily accessible vantage point from which to view the onset, progress and management of numerous systemic diseases,” reports the Oral-Systemic Health Connection from the US-based National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

To this end, Dentistry Canada Fund (DCF), the Canadian charity for oral health, is undertaking the Oral Health – Good for Life campaign. The campaign needs $10-million to build a fund to enable the DCF to provide $500,000 of research and education grants annually.

We can no longer afford to have Canadians believe oral health is separate from their general well-being. Improving the health literacy of the public, including oral health literacy, is key. Ensuring that other health professionals are knowledgeable about oral health is also important.

I quote directly from the DCF’s literature: “Oral health care is the real second tier in the Canadian health system, as it is financed primarily from after tax income of the population. There is no national database that documents the oral health status and oral health-related quality of life of Canadian seniors. In addition, there is disparity in access to oral health care, especially among rural, aboriginal, unemployed and retired populations who have little or no access to third-party insurance.”

We know that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have limited capacity to deliver needed oral health services to their residents, most of who are at increased risk for oral diseases.

“The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada highlighted the need to relieve the disproportionate burden of disease assumed by challenged populations such as seniors. Yet, oral health and oral health care were virtually non-existent in the final report. The lack of centralized decision-making about oral healthcare delivery makes the issue of addressing oral health care for seniors extremely difficult for researchers, oral health care providers and the many sectors that influence oral health policy.”

Seniors’ oral health will grow in importance as the number of Baby Boomer Canadians passes through the age 65 barrier. More than any other group in our history, boomers have had dental insurance and good oral health care throughout their lives. This group is ageing and retaining their teeth. Clearly, there is need for research, collaboration, education and a change in the delivery of services to this group in particular.

Finally, the oral health labour force shortages must be addressed to attract personnel to underserved practice opportunities.

Clearly, DCF is taking a position of leadership, a stance often lacking among Canadian associations. We all have a stake in ensuring that we invest in this endeavor. Now is the time for the profession and the industry to make this campaign a success. A plan is in place to recognize all contributors. For pledge information, contact: 1.877.363.0326 or email:

Oral Health – Good for Life.