Country food makes for healthier teeth

Dentist gives tips for oral hygiene month



“If I could get one message to people in Nunavut, it’s country food,” says Dr. Maura Nelson, a dentist who worked in Nunavut for three and a half years.

“Country food doesn’t damage your teeth, and it helps to clean your teeth because it’s tough and chewy – except for the sugary tea.”

April is National Oral Health Month, a time to remember the importance of healthy teeth.

And when it comes to clean teeth, eating healthy food tops the list for Dr. Nelson because it’s an easy way to prevent tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and pain, before they cause expensive trips to the dentist.

Since she first came to Nunavut, Nelson says she’s noticed that more Nunavummiut are taking the time to care for their teeth, and those of their children, but she still has some advice.

The first is to make sure to help children take care of baby teeth.

“There’s an attitude that baby teeth fall out and therefore they don’t matter,” Nelson said.

In fact, baby teeth are important placeholders for the adult teeth that follow. When baby teeth are damaged or lost, a child’s entire jaw can be affected because the adult teeth may not grow in evenly.

Taking children to the dentist pays off, Nelson said, because children with healthy teeth are easier to parent: “They are happier, easier to console, and they sleep better when they aren’t in pain.”

The other reason to help children take care of their teeth is to avoid a future where they suffer from pain, or the embarrassment of ugly teeth.

While it may not sound serious, shyness about dark, chipped or missing teeth can deeply affect people, and even prevent them from applying for a better job, or attending university in the South – though Nelson did not hear this from her patients.

“Nobody even mentioned to me that kind of anxiety,” she said. “I think it’s so deep-seated they don’t even want to talk about it with their dentist.”

The perfect white smile is everywhere on television and in marketing, she said. “People are watching television and getting that message.”

And though not everybody will have a perfect smile, prevention is the best way to make sure that children have smiles they are happy to show off.

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