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Original Research

Mapping the Quebec dental workforce: ranking rural oral health disparities

Submitted: 13 June 2015
Revised: 6 November 2015
Accepted: 17 November 2015
Published: 27 January 2016

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Author(s) : Emami E, Khiyani M, Habra C, Chassé V, Rompré PH.

Citation: Emami E, Khiyani M, Habra C, Chassé V, Rompré PH.  Mapping the Quebec dental workforce: ranking rural oral health disparities. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3630. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3630 (Accessed 21 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Ensuring access to oral health services is crucial for improving the oral health of rural and remote populations. A logical step towards addressing oral health disparities and underutilization of services in rural areas is to ensure the availability of the dental workforce. Geographical information systems are valuable in examining workforce dispersion patterns and identifying priority areas requiring administrative and policy attention. The objective of this study was to examine and map the distribution patterns of the dental workforce in Quebec, Canada.
Methods:  Utilizing the membership directory of Quebec Professional Orders (2009–2010), data on practice locations, practice types and license issue date for all active members of the Quebec dental workforce were obtained. This was followed by reverse geocoding of the geographic coordinates using a global positioning system visualizer to reveal textual locations. These locations were classified according to various degrees of rurality as defined by the 2006 Census Metropolitan Area and Census Agglomeration Influenced Zone typology, developed by Statistics Canada. Cartography layers were extracted from a geospatial database provided by Canada Natural Resources using ArcGIS 9.3. Descriptive and bivariate analyses were performed using SPSS v17 for Windows. 
Results:  Data analysis revealed statistically significant differences in the distribution of dental professionals in rural and urban areas (urban 59.4±19.4/100 000 vs rural 39.9±17.6/100 000; p<0.001). Approximately 90.3% of the dental workforce was located in urban zones, 1.3% in the zones strongly influenced by metropolitan area, 4.9% in the moderately influenced zones, while only 0.3% of the dental workforce was located in non-metropolitan-influenced zones. Urban zones such as Montreal, Quebec and Sherbrooke had the highest workforce availability (4–6 dentists for every 5000 inhabitants). Of a total of 447 specialist dentists in Quebec, only five were located in rural areas.
Conclusions:  This study concludes that there is a strong relationship between the degree of urbanization and the highest concentration of dental professionals. In addition, there is a lack of dental workforce availability, particularly specialists in rural Quebec. Further research is needed to examine and evaluate to what degree these distribution patterns might contribute to oral health outcomes of the rural population.
 

Key words: Canada, dental workforce, geographic information systems, health services research, healthcare access, healthcare disparities, rural oral health.

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