Healthy Living in the North

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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Talk to your kids

Children in hockey gear watching a hockey game from the bench.

Children and youth face pressure from multiple fronts to try tobacco products. Movies, music, television, and even sports can glamorize tobacco. Talk to your kids about tobacco and be a tobacco-free role model!

This blog post was co-written by Nancy Viney and Reg Wulff. Reg’s bio is below and you can read more about Nancy on our Contributors page.


 

Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.

It’s a fact that if a young person can make it to their 19th birthday without becoming a tobacco user, then chances are they will never become one. Parents need to talk to their children about tobacco use, though, as youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources.

We all know that peer pressure is a significant source, but what about other sources?

Movies, television and music have long had a powerful influence on youth. The tobacco industry uses that influence to exploit youth and recruit new tobacco users. Smoking in movies and on-screen is portrayed as glamorous, powerful, rebellious, and sexy while the health consequences are ignored. Listen to music on the radio and you may be surprised at how often smoking or cigarettes are referenced.

In May 2014, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit released a report that examined the exposure to on-screen tobacco use among Ontario youth. During a 7-year period, approximately 13,250 youth aged 12 to 17 began smoking each year as a result of watching smoking in movies. Of these smokers, it’s projected that more than 4,200 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

Kids can also face pressures while participating in sports. While Major League Baseball has long been associated with chewing tobacco, other sports like hockey and football have similar issues. The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12 to 21 regarding substance use and found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By age twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported they had tried “chew.”

Parents, coaches and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure or media influences. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. Coaches and athletes can set the example and not use tobacco products around kids. Sports and recreational organizations can develop, implement and enforce tobacco-free sports policies.

January 18-24 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence youth to live a healthy, tobacco-free life.

 

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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World AIDS Day

Portrait of woman wearing shirt that says: "If you care, be HIV aware"

If you care, be HIV aware. For more information about HIV/AIDS and safe sex practices, visit your local health unit or Opt Clinic.

Today is World AIDS Day. For the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day is a chance to get everyone involved in combating HIV/AIDS through the 90-90-90 strategy. The globally-recognized, made-in-B.C. 90-90-90 goals are:

  • 90% of those infected with HIV are aware of their status.
  • 90% of those diagnosed with HIV receive treatment.
  • 90% of those being treated have undetectable viral loads.

With routine HIV testing gaining momentum across northern B.C., we are on our way to achieving these goals.

World AIDS Day is also a time to think about prevention. Anyone can become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including young people. If you are considering having sexual relations or are sexually active, which includes both oral sex and intercourse (vaginal and anal), World AIDS Day is a good reminder to have a “sex talk.”

Visit your local health unit if you have questions about sex or are considering having sexual intercourse. Youth who want to be tested for STIs can visit their family doctor or they can visit the local Opt clinic, which offers sexual health services including STI testing, birth control counselling, and low cost contraceptives and supplies.

In addition to combating HIV, Sandra Sasaki, education manager and positive prevention coordinator at Positive Living North, reminds everyone that they can also play a role in combating discrimination this World AIDS Day by participating in local events. Vigils and awareness walks are taking place across northern B.C. this week. Visit Positive Living North to find an event to show your support and to honour those living with HIV and those we have lost to AIDS.

In Prince George, this year’s vigil will be held December 1 at the Fire Pit Cultural Drop-In Centre (1120 Third Avenue) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and practising safe sex, visit the Northern Health HIV/AIDS information source, hiv101.ca.

 

Sam Milligan

About Sam Milligan

Sam is the regional health systems navigator in Northern Health’s blood borne pathogens (BBP) services team. In his role, he provides education and consultation services to communities and programs across the north. Some of his responsibilities include improving community access to HIV & HCV treatment, increase testing for HIV/HCV, and provide current practice education to staff, physicians, and community members. If not at work or talking about work, Sam can be found in the realms of adventures with his two young sons or hanging out with the most gorgeous woman on the planet: his wife. (Sam no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Preventing falls: Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week

City street in the winter

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. Take steps to prevent falls this winter!

It’s that time of year again! Winter is creeping its way around the corner. As I walked outside this morning, I could see my breath in the cool, crisp air as I exhaled. The grass was covered in sparkly frost that crinkled and crunched as I did my morning chores. I love the fresh fall and winter mornings when there is no wind and everything is glistening. It is really quite pretty – almost surreal.

Winter is my favorite time of year, so the first few cool fall mornings always make the butterflies come alive in my stomach as I anticipate the fluffy white stuff! As I walk about carefully scraping my truck windows, buckling up, and driving to work, however, I am quickly reminded that with all the beauty in this winter wonderland, things become very slippery! Roads, walkways, stairs, and other surfaces become a little slicker and we have to be just a little more careful.

With winter slipperiness comes an increased risk of falling. On a few occasions, I’ve definitely found myself on the ground, looking up at the clouds before I even had a chance to catch myself! Does anyone else find it challenging to stay safely on your feet?

This task becomes even harder as we age. One in three people aged 65 years and older fall every year, which can lead to an older adult getting hurt so badly that they lose their ability to live independently. So, in the spirit of Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week (November 3-9, 2014), take the time to think about how you can prevent falls for yourself and those you love with these tips:

  • Be physically active in order to strengthen muscles. Healthy Families BC has some great examples of how to stay active as you age.
  • Get your eyes checked to detect vision problems.
  • Make a list of all of your medications and supplements and ask your pharmacist to review them, looking for combinations that cause dizziness or impaired judgement.
  • Don’t wear loose-fitting slippers or shoes with worn-out tread since bad footwear can lead to slips, trips, and falls.
  • Don’t let the fear of falling stop you from being active. If you’ve fallen before, you may be afraid of falling again. But physical activity helps keep you strong, which can prevent future falls and fractures.
  • Drink enough water. Dehydration puts you at higher risk for falling.
  • Remove the clutter. Things on the floor can cause you to trip or stumble.
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom to help with getting in and out of the tub. Grab bars can look stylish, too – get some in white or chrome.
  • Get some new lighting. Dark corners can limit visibility and lead to a fall. As a bonus, most new lighting fixtures use very little electricity.
  • Learn more about fall-proofing your home from HealthLinkBC.

Finally, if you are an older adult or have an aging loved one, check out the following resources from SeniorsBC:

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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A safe Halloween is a happy Halloween

Two children wearing costumes trick-or-treating in the snow.

Decorations, costumes, and treats can make for lots of distractions on Halloween. Following a few simple safety tips will ensure a happy Halloween for everyone!

Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!

Remember when you were a kid and the excitement you felt as Halloween approached? It was such an exciting time: planning your costume, carving pumpkins, decorating the house, attending Halloween parties, trick-or-treating, and counting your loot once you returned home!

As a kid, I couldn’t wait to go out trick-or-treating; I wanted to start as soon as school was out and go until I dropped. The most exciting time was when it became dark; I was so scared to walk up to that haunted house with the graveyard in the front and the scarecrow next to the door! Could I build up the nerve to stand next to that goblin or witch and knock? I had to, of course, because everyone knew that the best treats were at the scariest houses.

Halloween is a fun and exciting time, but children become distracted with treats and costumes and safety rules are easily forgotten. These distractions increase a child’s chances of being struck by a vehicle and this makes for one unhappy Halloween.

Check out these simple safety tips for a happy Halloween:

  • Children under the age of nine should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older child.
  • Teach your child to stop at the curb, look left, look right, and look left again as well as to listen for oncoming traffic.
  • Select costumes with bright colours. Increase your child’s visibility using lights and reflective material. Bring a flashlight and choose face paint over a mask.
  • Always cross streets at crosswalks, street corners, or intersections. It is never safe to cross between parked cars or other obstacles.
  • Stay on the sidewalk when walking from house to house. If there is no sidewalk, walk beside the road, facing traffic. Trick-or-treat on one side of the street.
  • Drive slowly; there are more children on the streets.
  • Watch out for kids!
  • Reduce distractions such as cell phones and loud music and stay alert.

For more on Halloween safety visit:

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.

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