NCCAH Taking Care of Your Teeth

Good oral health is vital for overall health and well-being. As the World Health Organization points out, “oral health affects people physically and psychologically and influences how they grow, enjoy life, look, speak, chew, taste food and socialize, as well as their feelings of social well-being.”[1] Two new NCCAH fact sheets provide an overview of oral health for Aboriginal children and adults, describing common problems and prevention strategies:

As outlined by these fact sheets, brushing and flossing daily is an important part of good oral hygiene, and in combination with regular cleanings by a dental professional, these habits can help prevent gum disease. Gingivitis and periodontitis are two forms of gum disease that, in the absence of good oral hygiene, can lead to painful inflammation of the gum tissue. Gingivitis occurs when a build-up of plaque on the teeth leads to redness, swelling and bleeding of the gums. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional care to remove plaque and tartar build-up, but if left untreated it could lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis occurs when inflammation spreads beyond the gum tissue and can cause irreversible loss of bone and connective tissue supporting the teeth.

Most of the risk factors for developing gum disease are behavioural and can be changed by developing good oral health habits. For adults, quitting smoking, controlling diabetes, and daily flossing and thorough brushing can help prevent gum disease.

Early childhood is an important life stage for forming good oral health habits. The Early Childhood Tooth Decay fact sheet addresses the high rates of early childhood caries (ECCs) or cavities in Aboriginal communities. Studies have shown that for 3-5 year olds, 30% of First Nations children and 85% of Inuit children have one or more cavities. ECCs are linked to consumption of sugary foods and drinks (juice and soda pop) and lack of regular dental care (brushing and professional cleaning). ECCs are particularly problematic for young children who go to sleep with bottles or sippy cups filled with juice or other high-sugar drinks. To help avoid tooth decay in young children, which could lead to painful cavities, parents should avoid giving sugary drinks to their children at night, and should brush their young children’s teeth twice daily.

Together these fact sheets show that, given the importance of healthy teeth and gums to overall health and wellbeing, it’s never too early or too late to start developing good oral health habits.

[1] Sheiham, Aubrey (2005). Oral health, general health and quality of life. Bulletin of the World Health Organization.


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