Report States Urgent Oral Care Accounts for 1,000+ Visits Annually to Emergency Room

Written by admin, December 12, 2013

December 12, 2013 – 2013 Oral Health Status Report Highlights Need for Better Access to Dental Care for Low-Income Residents

Last night the Peterborough County-City Board of Health learned that crude rates* for local Emergency Department (ED) visits for oral health problems are 65% greater than provincial rates. Young adults, aged 20 to 29 years accounted for the greatest proportion of ED visits.

“It’s disturbing to see this increased strain on our emergency hospital services, but more importantly, it tells us we have a problem with many residents possibly suffering unnecessarily and turning to the Emergency Department for urgent help,” said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Medical Officer of Health upon the release of Peterborough Public Health’s 2013 Oral Health Status Report.  “We now know that one-third of local residents do not have dental insurance. Over half of our seniors have no dental insurance and only 65% of young adults are covered. This report confirms what public health and social service agencies see on a daily basis – that the lack of affordable dental care is contributing to poorer overall health in our community.”

Oral health is an integral part of overall health and well-being and it has been shown that poor oral health may be associated with some major systematic disease such as diabetes and heart disease.  In addition, dental diseases can severely affect one’s quality of life by causing considerable pain and discomfort as well as interfering with normal activities such as social interactions, work and school tasks. Children who experience dental decay early in life are shown to lag behind others in terms of growth and learning abilities.

Oral diseases are mostly preventable.  However, once such conditions develop, they impose significant direct and indirect costs on individuals as well as society.  For instance, it has been estimated that in 2009 approximately 40 million hours of school and work were lost due to dental conditions in Canada.

Other highlights from the report include:


  • Abscesses and toothaches were the most common reason for visits to the ED
  • Approximately three-quarters of junior kindergarten students are cavity-free
  • In 2009/2010, three quarters of Peterborough residents reported that they had visited the dentist in the past 12 months
  • One in six Peterborough residents have had a tooth removed by a dentist in the last 12 months and more than half of those are due to decay or gum disease
  • The most common reason for not visiting a dentist in the past three years was cost
  • One-quarter of people in Peterborough do not brush their teeth twice or more daily

Given the findings of this report, the following actions are recommended as priorities for the Peterborough County-City Board of Health and its partners:

  • Promote and support policies and provisions for continued access to optimally fluoridated community drinking water;
  • Maintain, and expand where possible, the current level of data collection concerning oral health;
  • Continue to remove barriers (such as financial eligibility thresholds) to accessing dental services including operating the Community Dental Health Centre and the Mobile Dental Health Centre; and
  • Work in partnership with community champions to maintain the emergency dental fund, and develop health promotional materials and increase the profile of oral health importance in Peterborough.


The Public Health conducts annual dental screening of school children to assess their oral health status and advise parents of programs available to provide urgent dental care.  The Public Health also runs a Community Dental Health Centre in downtown Peterborough and a Mobile Dental Health Centre throughout the county to provide dental services to eligible clients receiving social assistance.

A copy of the report can be found on Public Health’s website at in the About Us section under “Plans and Reports”.

*Note:  Crude rate is the total number of events relative to the total population (per 100,000) during a specified period of time.




For further information, please contact:

Sarah Tanner
Oral Health Supervisor
(705) 743-1000, ext. 207