Visits to physicians for oral health-related complaints in Ontario, Canada

Nancy C. LaPlante, Sonica Singhal, Jacquie Maund, Carlos Quiñonez

Abstract


OBJECTIVE: Canada’s national system of health insurance facilitates equitable access to health care; however, since dental care is generally privately financed and delivered, access to oral health care remains uneven and inequitable. To avoid the upfront costs, many argue that socially marginalized groups should seek oral health care from medical providers. This study therefore explored the rates and numbers of visits to physicians for oral health-related diagnoses in Ontario, Canada’s most populated province.

METHODS: A retrospective secondary data analysis of health system utilization in Ontario was conducted for visits to physicians for oral health-related diagnoses. Data for all Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) approved billing claims were accessed over 11 fiscal years (2001–2011). Age- and sex-adjusted rates were calculated.

RESULTS: Approximately 208,375 visits per year, with an average of 1,298/100,000 persons, were made to physicians for oral health-related diagnoses. Women, irrespective of the year, made more visits, and there was an increasing trend in visits made by elderly people.

CONCLUSION: The number of people visiting physicians for oral health reasons is arguably high. The public health system is being billed for services for oral health issues that the provider is not appropriately trained to treat. Provision of timely and accessible oral health care for socially marginalized populations needs to be prioritized in health care policy.


Keywords


Medical billing; health services; health policy; access to oral health care

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.106.4866