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Oral Health is Vital for Overall Health

May 01, 2013
Did you pay a visit to your dentist last year? While most in Ontario would answer “yes” to this question, a recent report from Public Health Ontario shows that a number of Ontarians have not visited a dentist in the past three years, with one in five citing cost as a barrier.

Did you pay a visit to your dentist last year?  While most in Ontario would answer “yes” to this question, a recent report from Public Health Ontario shows that a number of Ontarians have not visited a dentist in the past three years, with one in five citing cost as a barrier.

Visiting a dentist regularly is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your overall health. The mouth is the gateway to the body – we use our teeth to chew food and to make certain sounds when we speak, and we express our emotions by smiling and laughing and showing off our pearly whites.

Teeth are made of the hardest substance in our bodies – enamel.  Brushing twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride, using dental floss daily and maintaining a healthy diet are simple steps to maintaining good oral health.  When you don’t take good care of your mouth, you risk developing dental decay and gum disease, which can lead to much more serious problems.

Dental decay occurs when there are certain bacteria living in the mouth and food or beverages containing sugar are consumed.  The bacteria break down the sugar into acids which over time dissolve enamel.  Fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, rinses and other products help to re-mineralize early decay, but with repeated exposure to acid the enamel can be destroyed.  The inner surface of the tooth, called dentin, is much softer than enamel and decay progresses more quickly and requires the attention of a dentist.

Gum disease is common in adults.  It is preventable with good oral hygiene and professional cleaning by your dentist or registered dental hygienist.  There are serious health conditions linked to periodontal disease, the more severe type of gum disease, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, low birth weight babies and pneumonia in older adults.

In Ontario, there are many ways families without income can access dental care through publicly-funded programs, including the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW).  The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit runs two other programs specifically for children and youth: the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) program assists families by meeting the urgent dental care needs of children, while the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program helps children get comprehensive dental care, including preventive services, if the family earns $20,000 a year or less.

The health unit provides full dental treatment services to all publicly-funded dental programs in a clinic at 80 Bradford Street in Barrie and on the HSO mobile clinic which travels across Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka.  Last school year, the oral health team screened more than 26,000 children, with 20 per cent requiring dental treatment and another 55 per cent that would benefit from preventive dental services. They also provided dental treatment services to 600 adults on government funded benefit programs.

For more information on oral health support available from the health unit, to find out when the mobile clinic will be in your area, or to schedule an appointment, visit simcoemuskokahealth.org or call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and speak with a public health nurse.

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Dr. Gardner is Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health.


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