First Nations Oral Health Survey

The First Nations Oral Health Survey (FNOHS) is the first and only survey of its kind, collecting national level data about the oral health conditions of children, youth and adults living in First Nations reserve and Northern communities across Canada.  

Founded in 2008, the FNOHS was the result of a partnership between the Office of the Chief Dental Officer (OCDO) at Health Canada and the Assembly of First Nations’ First Nations Information Governance Committee, the forerunner of the First Nations Information Governance Centre (FNIGC).

The survey was in large part a response to the long-standing gap that had existed for robust, quality data on First Nations oral health. For example, in 2007 Statistics Canada launched the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS), a national survey initiative that included the majority of Canadians in its sample, but left out those living in First Nations reserve and Northern communities. This was an unfortunate situation because surveys on oral health provide essential information on the extent and severity of oral health conditions in their target populations, which helps to alleviate the burden of disease.

Without basic data about First Nations on-reserve oral health across Canada it’s difficult to answer research questions or to determine where to direct treatment interventions and policy changes that could benefit First Nations people and the communities they live in.

Coordinated by the First Nations Information Governance Committee’s First Nations Regional Health Survey team, the FNOHS began data collection in February 2009 with an eventual 1,188 First Nations people participating in the survey. The survey, which consisted of in-person interviews and clinical oral examinations, gathered information on risk factors and health determinants affecting First Nations oral health, along with baseline data that could be used for future First Nations oral health surveys.

When the FNOHS national report (Report on the Findings of the First Nations Oral Health Survey 2009-2010) was published in 2011 it marked the first comprehensive examination of oral health conditions in First Nations communities. The report revealed stark differences in the oral health conditions for First Nations and non-First Nations people in Canada, with 57% of First Nations people reporting having visited a dentist in the previous year compared to 72% of non-First Nations people.

First Nations people were also more likely to have experienced chronic mouth pain, toothaches or other oral symptoms, and to have avoided eating certain foods due to problems with their teeth, mouth or dentures.

To download a copy of the national report of the FNOHS, click here: Report on the Findings of the First Nations Oral Health Survey 2009-2010.