Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Dental treatment needs in the Canadian population: analysis of a nationwide cross-sectional survey

Chantel Ramraj1*, Amir Azarpazhooh1, Laura Dempster1, Vahid Ravaghi2 and Carlos Quiñonez1

Author affiliations

1 Discipline of Dental Public Health, Faculty of Dentistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

2 Oral Health & Society Research Unit, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Oral Health 2012, 12:46  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-46

Published: 27 October 2012



Nationally representative clinical data on the oral health needs of Canadians has not been available since the 1970s. The purpose of this study was to determine the normative treatment needs of a nationally representative sample of Canadians and describe how these needs were distributed.


A secondary analysis of data collected through the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) was undertaken. Sampling and bootstrap weights were applied to make the data nationally representative. Descriptive frequencies were used to examine the sample characteristics and to examine the treatment type(s) needed by the population. Bivariate logistic regressions were used to see if any characteristics were predictive of having an unmet dental treatment need, and of having specific treatment needs. Lastly, multivariate logistic regression was used to identify the strongest predictors of having an unmet dental treatment need.


Most of the population had no treatment needs and of the 34.2% who did, most needed restorative (20.4%) and preventive (13.7%) care. The strongest predictors of need were having poor oral health, reporting a self-perceived need for treatment and visiting the dentist infrequently.


It is estimated that roughly 12 million Canadians have at least one unmet dental treatment need. Policymakers now have information by which to assess if programs match the dental treatment needs of Canadians and of particular subgroups experiencing excess risk.

Dental care needs; Health policy; Socio-demographic/economic factors