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Dental Oral Health

Good dental health is important at all stages of life.
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1. Brushing, Flossing, and Diet

Aging does not cause tooth decay and gum disease.

  • The tooth decay process begins when plaque sticks to the tooth and makes acids from the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) in foods. These acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after food is eaten.
  • Plaque is a sticky build-up of germs (bacteria) that forms on teeth and gums causing cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
  • A cavity (hole) occurs when the calcium in the tooth enamel has been removed by repeated acid attacks. The enamel can no longer repair itself through the natural process. A cavity needs treatment to save the tooth and to prevent pain and infection.

Brushing

Brushing removes plaque and food particles from teeth and gums. 

A child will need a smaller brush than an adult. Replace a toothbrush when the bristles become bent or frayed (usually every three or four months) or after an illness.
Brush your children’s teeth for them until they are able to write their own name – around age 8. They should be able to brush their own teeth with your guidance and assistance from time to time.

You can use several methods of tooth brushing. Here is a recommended method.

Use a soft-bristled tooth brush.

  1. Hold the toothbrush against the teeth, with bristles at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.
  2. Gently move the toothbrush back and forth several times with very short strokes on two teeth at a time. Repeat until all areas are clean.
  3. For the inside of the front teeth, tilt the brush upright and use small vibrating strokes or small circles with the tip of the brush. Thorough brushing takes 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Brush the tongue. This will remove bacteria and freshen the breath.
  5. Rinse your toothbrush well after brushing. Store the brush in a clean, dry place out of contact with other brushes. 

Flossing

Flossing removes plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line, areas where your toothbrush can't reach. Gum disease and cavities often start in these areas, so it is important to clean them thoroughly once a day. Flossing becomes easier with practice. You will find that flossing takes only a few minutes. 

  1. Break off a piece of dental floss about 45 centimetres (18 inches) long.
  2. Wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest around the same finger of the other hand.
  3. Hold the floss tightly between the fingers and slowly work it between the teeth and under the gum line using a gentle back and forth motion.
  4. When the floss is at the gum line, curve it, making a "C" around the tooth, and slide it into the space between the tooth and the gum until you feel resistance. Then gently slide the floss up and down against the side of the tooth to remove the plaque.
  5. Repeat this process on each tooth, using a clean section of the floss each time.
  6. Remember to floss the backs of the very last teeth.

Check your mouth and gums

Carefully check your mouth and gums for early signs of disease such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums.

Gum Disease

Gum disease (gingivitis or periodontal disease) is an infection that affects the gums and other tissues supporting the teeth. It is most common in adults, but also affects children. 

If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it builds up and causes the gums to become red, swollen and bleed easily. Healthy gums do not bleed. Bleeding is a common early sign of gum disease and means that brushing and flossing practices need to be improved.

Plaque hardens and turns into tartar (calculus). Tartar collects around the gum line and makes a great place to trap more plaque. This makes gum disease more likely to happen. You cannot remove tartar by brushing and flossing. You need to visit the dental office to have the tartar removed professionally.

If gum disease is not treated early, it can get worse. The infection moves down the tooth and under the gums, and can eventually destroy the bone underneath. The teeth may become loose and fall out or have to be removed.
Remember to watch for these early signs of gum disease:

  • Red, shiny or puffy gums 
  • Bad breath, bad taste 
  • Gums that bleed easily and may be tender
  • Pus between teeth and gums 
  • An unpleasant taste 
  • Loose or shifting teeth A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures.

Diet

The teeth and gums, like the rest of the body, need a well-balanced diet to stay healthy. Follow Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating to make sure you get the nutrition you need for good general and oral health. 

The bacteria in plaque feed on carbohydrates and sugars and become active every time you eat. This puts you at risk for tooth decay. 

It is important to choose healthy snacks. Good snack choices include:

  • Fresh vegetables and fruits;
  • Milk, cheese, and yogurt;
  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and nuts; 
  • Bread and cereals.

Many cheeses increase the amount of saliva (spit). Examples are aged Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Blue, Brie, and Gouda. This helps reduce the harmful effects acids cause to the surface of your teeth. Serve cheese as a snack or at the end of a meal.

Children do not need juice; offer water or milk to drink

Developing an Oral Health Care Plan – a message from the Chief Dental Officer of Canada

Poor oral health can affect more than just your mouth; it can affect other areas of your body as well. Increasing evidence shows a connection between oral health and general health and well-being. Periodontal disease – or disease of the gum and supporting bone – has been linked to a number of diseases including:

  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory Illness
  • Pre-term, low birth weight babies
  • Cardiovascular disease

The most important things you can do to maintain good oral health, to reduce your risk of developing periodontal/gum disease; and to reduce your risk of developing many other diseases are:

  • Brush and floss twice a day
  • Use a water, toothpaste or rinses containing fluoride to health strengthen your teeth
  • Check your mouth and teeth regularly. 
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco
  • Stay active and make healthy food choices according to the Canada’s Food Guide
  • If you have diabetes, heart or respiratory disease, or if you are pregnant, speak to a dental or other health care provider to help design an oral health care plan.
  • See a dental professional on a regular basis.
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2. Fluoride and Sealants

Fluoride reduces tooth decay in two ways. 

Before teeth appear:
  • Fluoride is absorbed into the bloodstream. It becomes part of the enamel during the time teeth are developing. 
After teeth appear: 
  • Fluoride comes in direct contact with the enamel on the outside of the tooth. It creates a tooth surface that is more resistant to decay. 
An appropriate amount of fluoride is effective to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride assists in the remineralization of tooth enamel to make the enamel stronger and more resistant to decay.

Humans ingest fluoride on a daily basis from food and water. Individuals also get fluoride from toothpastes, fluoride rinses, gels, foams, and varnishes. 

Fluoride mouthrinses

School-based fluoride mouthrinse programs 

Fluoride mouthrinse programs are offered in some Saskatchewan schools. Once a week, under supervision, the students rinse with a 0.2% neutral sodium fluoride mouthrinse for one minute. Spit – do not swallow – the solution.

Enrolling in a fluoride mouthrinse program

If the school in your area offers a fluoride mouthrinse program, a consent form will be sent home with your child. Participation is voluntary.

You need to complete, sign, and return the consent card to your child's teacher.

Fluoride varnish

Fluoride varnish is a protective coating that is painted on a child's teeth to prevent cavities. It can also be painted on teeth that already have cavities. Fluoride can slow down or help stop cavities from getting bigger. This does not replace regular dental checkups at your dental office, as your child may still need dental treatment. 

The fluoride varnish will be painted on your child's teeth one or two times each year. The number of times depends on whether your child is at risk for early childhood tooth decay.

If the school in your area offers a fluoride varnish program, a consent form will be sent home with your child. Participation is voluntary.

You need to complete, sign, and return the consent card to your child's teacher.

For more information, contact the Dental Health Educator/Coordinator or dental team in your health region.

Community water fluoridation

Community water fluoridation is where communities adjust the concentration of fluoride in their drinking water. 

Benefits of community water fluoridation:

  • 20-40 percent less dental decay in people of all ages;
  • Prevention of pain, infection and tooth loss;
  • Lower dental costs for repairing decayed teeth;
  • Fewer school and work hours missed due to oral health problems and dental visits; and
  • Improved oral health over a lifetime.

Most communities in Saskatchewan have between 0.1 - 0.2 milligrams per litre of naturally occurring fluoride in their water. For dental benefits, the recommended optimal level of fluoride is 0.7 mg/l. The decision to fluoridate is made locally at the community level 

To find out if your water is fluoridated, check with your municipal government or local public health office. 

For more information about water fluoridation, contact your local public health office. 

Sealants

Sealants are clear or shaded plastic material applied to the chewing surfaces to protect the teeth from decay causing bacteria that hide in the deep pits and grooves.

Sealants are different from fillings. They are applied to teeth to prevent decay. Fillings are placed in teeth after decay has been removed. 

Children receive the greatest benefit from having sealants placed on permanent teeth that have just come in, because this is when teeth are the most likely to decay.

The first permanent molars grow in between the ages of 5 and 7. The second permanent molars grow in between the ages of 11 and 14. 

A sealant is placed by a dental professional. The procedure is simple and painless. It takes only a few minutes. The tooth is cleaned and treated with a solution that allows the sealant to stick to the tooth. Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly harden to form a shield over the tooth. 

Sealants can last for up to 10 years. They can be checked at dental visits to see if they need to be replaced. 

Both sealants and fluoride are recommended for best protection against tooth decay. 

If the school in your area offers a sealant program, a consent form will be sent home with your child. Participation is voluntary.

You need to complete, sign, and return the consent card to your child's teacher.

For more information, contact the Dental Health Educator/Coordinator or dental team in your health region.

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3. Dentures

There are four types of dentures:

  • Fixed partial denture or bridge - This is permanently attached to healthy neighbouring teeth. It replaces missing teeth when surrounding teeth and gums are healthy.

  • Removable partial denture - This is held in place with clasps that are attached to neighbouring teeth. It replaces many teeth that have been removed.

  • Complete dentures - Dentures are needed when all natural teeth have been removed because of severe gum disease or other dental problems.

  • Dental implants - Implants are small metal posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone. The post gradually bonds with surrounding tissue and bone until it becomes a strong anchor that permanently holds replacement teeth.

See a dental professional

The mouth changes often and regular dental appointments are necessary to keep a good comfortable fit. It is important to replace a worn or poorly fitting denture before it causes problems in the mouth. Repairing or relining dentures at home may seriously damage both the dentures and your gums. Poor fitting dentures can cause sore spots that may need medical attention.

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