Healthy Living in the North

Why does dental health matter?

Parent brushing a child's teeth.

Protecting your smile also protects your overall health! As National Oral Health Month winds down, it’s important to consider the links between oral health and overall health!

As National Oral Health Month winds down, it is important to reflect on why dental health matters and how to protect our smiles and overall health all year long!

Dental health is not limited to just the health of our teeth and gums. Our overall health is affected by our oral health. Poor oral health shares common risk factors with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Pregnant women with dental disease are at a greater risk of having a preterm, low birth weight baby who is also more at risk for developing complications. In a recent study, the risk for a preterm and low birth weight baby was seven times higher for pregnant women with dental disease than for pregnant women with healthy gums. In addition to the overall health risk, primary caregivers with poor oral health pass their cavity-causing bacteria onto the children they take care of, increasing the child’s risk for early childhood caries (tooth decay).

Poor dental health can be found in all ages and socioeconomic levels of our society; it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or how old you are. In children, it is the most common infectious disease and is “five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.” In Canada, dental services account for 7 per cent of total health expenditures and about 39 per cent of Canadians experience lost time from work, school and other activities due to dental visits or dental sick days.

In Canada, oral cancer is the 13th most common type of cancer and has a relatively poor survival rate. Each year, more than 3,400 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed, 1,000 people will die from oral cancer, and the 5-year survival rate of oral cancer is 63 per cent, which is below that of prostate, melanoma or cervical cancers. Many risk factors exist and Health Canada identifies several risk factors which can increase your risk of developing oral cancers:

  • You are over the age of 40.
  • You are male. Even though the gap is narrowing, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women.
  • You have human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • You use tobacco products, especially if combined with high alcohol consumption.
  • You regularly drink a lot of alcohol.
  • Your lips are exposed to the sun on a regular basis.
  • Your diet is low in fruits and vegetables, robbing you of important protective factors.

To learn how to prevent dental disease and catch small problems early, before they become big problems, visit your dental office regularly.

Mother brushing child's teeth

National Oral Health Month may be winding down, but the link between oral health and overall health means thinking about and caring for our teeth and gums is important all year long!

Learn more about the importance of dental health through these great resources and articles:

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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Begin dental care early!

Young child at dentist's office.

Baby teeth are important for jaw development, chewing, speech development, and spacing. Mouth care for children starts sooner than you may realize!

April is National Oral Health Month and is a great time to think about teeth and our children’s teeth!

Baby teeth are important for:

  • Jaw development – chewing stimulates proper jaw growth.
  • Chewing – food broken down makes digestion easier.
  • Speech development – properly aligned teeth aid in speech.
  • Spacing – baby teeth guide permanent teeth into proper position. Children start to lose their baby teeth around 6 years of age and all the way up until around 14 years of age.

Mouth care for children starts sooner than you may realize

Tooth decay can start as soon as baby teeth appear (around 6-12 months of age). Young children are not able to clean their own teeth. As a parent, you must do it for them when they are very young and do it with them as they get older. Brush your child’s teeth morning and night with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Canadian Dental Association guidelines for toothpaste amount.

Brush morning and night with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. For children under 3, a rice-sized amount of toothpaste is sufficient. For children 3 and older, aim for a pea-sized amount.

Visits to your dentist

The Canadian Dental Association recommends your child’s first visit to be “within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.”

What is early childhood tooth decay?

Early childhood tooth decay is the main cause of tooth decay for children under the age of 4. It is a serious disease that can destroy teeth but it can be prevented!

  • Brush your baby’s teeth morning and night with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Avoid letting your baby drink from a sip cup or bottle constantly throughout the day.
  • Never put baby to bed with a bottle as they may fall asleep with milk or juice still in their mouth.
  • Lift your child’s lip once a month to check teeth for chalky, dull white spots or lines which are early signs of tooth decay (cavities). Catch small problems early.
  • Drink water for thirst between regular meals and snacks.
  • Choose healthy foods.
  • Visit your dental office regularly. Catch small problems early – before they become big problems.

For more information, visit the Canadian Dental Association’s Dental Care for Children page.

 

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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“Sip Cup” – Friend or Foe?

Running water from a tap filling a glass

Ditch the sip cup! Beginning at age one, start to introduce your child to a regular lidless cup.

These days, families with young children are on the go! With this comes the challenge of keeping children healthy and happy. One of the more common conveniences that we see for young children between the ages of 1-3 is the “sip cup”.

Sip cups have been around for several years. With a spouted lid, they are often preferred as a drink container by parents for several reasons. Parents can choose what beverage they put in the sip cups, lids are spill-resistant and the cups are break-resistant and reusable.

But, depending on how they are used, did you know that they could be putting your child at a higher risk of tooth decay?

If your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay can happen as the tooth is erupting too! To minimize the risk of tooth decay, have your child drink water for thirst. Other beverages contain sugars which coat the teeth over and over again, every time your child takes a sip. Even fruit juice contains natural sugars. Water is the safest drink between meals and for thirst. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing your child to a regular lidless cup around the age of one. So you can skip the sip cup! Remember to wash cups in hot soapy water between uses.

To help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay, use a “pea sized amount or less” of children’s fluoride toothpaste, morning and night. Help your child brush until at least 8 years of age and continue to check how they did with brushing after that. Avoid soft sticky foods such as dried fruit, raisins or candy that will stick on your child’s teeth for long periods of time. Choose fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit. Drink water for thirst and visit your dental team regularly.

The Canadian Dental Association encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

For more information and some great dental games for kids, please visit:

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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Protect your smile

Canadian Dental Association guidelines for toothpaste amount.

Brush in the morning and at night with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. For children under 3, a rice-sized amount of toothpaste is sufficient. For children 3 and older, aim for a pea-sized amount.

According to the Canadian Dental Association, good dental health “contributes positively to your physical, mental and social well-being and to the enjoyment of life’s possibilities, by allowing you to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment.”

Unfortunately, poor dental health can be found at all ages and socioeconomic levels. In children, tooth decay is the most common infectious disease and is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth decay is preventable and National Oral Health Month is a great time to learn more about this condition.

What are cavities?

Cavities, or tooth decay, happen when the hard outside layer of a tooth (enamel) has been eaten away or demineralized by acids, forming a hole in the tooth.

Where do the acids that attack teeth come from?

Specific cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths make acids by using the sugars in foods that we eat. Some acids also come straight from foods like juice and pop. Every time we eat something that has sugars or acids, our teeth are attacked or broken down by these acids for about 20 minutes, but this acid attack can be even longer if we choose sticky foods that are able to stay on our teeth. Fluoride in toothpaste, water, or rinses works to protect our teeth against acid attacks no matter what age we are.

How can I protect my teeth from acid attacks?

  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks like pop, juice, iced tea, lemonade, and energy drinks. Drink water for thirst instead.
  • Avoid constant snacking or “grazing.”
  • Choose a variety of healthy foods and snacks every day.
  • Limit how often you choose foods with added sugar.
  • Brush your teeth in the morning and at night with small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • When you can’t brush right after a meal or snack, help dilute acids and sugars by rinsing with water or chewing sugarless gum.
  • See your dental office regularly, approximately every six months. Tooth decay and more serious oral cancers often do not show signs or symptoms until they’re big problems. Early detection is critical so aim to catch small problems early, before they become big problems!
Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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