Taking care of your teeth and your gums is called oral (mouth) health. Your gums are the soft pink skin in your mouth that hold your teeth in place. Maintaining good oral health includes keeping your teeth free from cavities and preventing gum disease. Poor oral health can affect your ability to properly chew and digest food.
Eating healthy food is important to have strong teeth and healthy gums. Oral health is important for babies, children, youth and adults. It is also important for older adults who are keeping their teeth longer than ever before. Strong, healthy teeth help you chew the right foods. They also help you speak clearly. If you don't take care of your teeth, cavities and unhealthy gums will make your mouth very sore. Eating will be difficult. And you won't feel like smiling too much.
After you eat, bacteria break down sugars in your mouth into acids that can eat away tooth enamel, causing holes in your teeth called cavities. That’s why brushing your teeth to remove bacteria is so important.
Poor oral health can also harm the gums and may also affect the bone supporting your teeth. When “plaque” (say “PLAK”) builds up on the teeth your gums can become unhealthy. Plaque is a sticky and colourless bacteria that hardens on the teeth. If it is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, plaque can increase the risk of gum infections.
To have good oral health, children and adults should:
- Brush and floss their teeth daily.
- Visit a dental or other health professional regularly to get their teeth checked.
- Eat a healthy diet according to the Nunavut Food Guide.
- Not smoke. If you do smoke, make sure to get your mouth and gums checked regularly for disease.
- If you are pregnant, be sure to eat healthy foods and maintain good oral health.
- Brush their children's teeth for them, until they do it every day by themselves.
Today we know a lot about how to take care of our teeth. Long ago, as people got older, their teeth would rot away and be very painful. To get rid of a toothache, they had their teeth pulled out. Finally, people learned that cleaning their teeth was important.
In some communities, like Iqaluit, dental services are available all year. In other communities services are provided by travelling dental clinics that visit the communities several times a year. Information about dental services, dental checkups in your community are available from your Community Health Nurse.