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Oral Health

It is important to start good daily oral health habits from birth and to continue throughout ones entire life. Schools have a unique opportunity to positively influence students through educating, role modeling, and creating healthy and supportive learning environments. Below is a list of links and resources educators can access to help teach students about oral health.

What Works?

The promotion of oral health in schools is achieved by:

Understanding oral health concepts:

  • School-based oral health education interventions can have positive impacts on behavioural outcomes
  • School-aged children are particularly receptive to learning and establishing new habits as part of their daily routine
  • School-based experiential learning using interactive methods, coupled with repetition and reinforcement of health messages, can lead to better oral health outcomes

Making positive oral health choices:

  • Teaching healthy oral habits early in life can reduce burden of oral diseases in adulthood
  • Schools provide a supportive environment for the development of healthy behaviours
  • Improvement in knowledge due to exposure to education can positively influence:
    • Daily oral care practices (i.e., tooth brushing and flossing)
    • Food and beverage choices to maintain healthy teeth
    • Attitudes about oral health (i.e., importance of prevention, taking individual responsibility for one’s oral health)
    • Clinical outcomes such as a reduction of dental caries and gingival inflammation

Making community connections to oral health services:

  • Dental screening in schools provides a visual assessment of the teeth
  • Families receive information about the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) dental program, including support applying for the program, navigating the program, and accessing a dentist

Information above adapted from: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/E/2017/eb-oral-health-education.pdf

  1. An oral health education kit entitled the “Reach and Teach Kit” is available for JK/SK classrooms. It contains interactive educational resources for teachers/educators. Call to pick up the kit at the Brockville and Smiths Falls Health Unit locations.
  2. Halton Public Health has oral health information and resources broken down according to each section in the curriculum for grades K-8.rriculum for grades K-8:
  3. OPHEA Ontario Physical Health Education Association
    • To access the lesson plans, click on the hyperlink above and then choose the grade you are looking for on the right-hand side of the page. You will then see a hyperlink to “Oral Health” at the top of the page for each grade.
  4. Health Unit resources on Tooth_Friendly_Snacks and Tips for Brushing Children’s Teeth

Information above adapted from: https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/E/2017/eb-oral-health-education.pdf

Our mouth is the link to our entire body and overall health. How well we clean our teeth, what we choose to eat and drink, and our personal habits all have a major impact on our oral health. It is important for youth to know that tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and sexual activity can have an impact on their oral health as well. To learn how these aspects of our lifestyle can affect the teeth and tissues of our mouth, check out the Healthy Mouth 101 booklet. 

  1. Canadian Dental Association (cda-adc.ca) has evidence based oral health information and activities, including colouring pages, connect the dots, a brushing log and much more.
    • DISCLAIMER: Some sections of this website discuss obesity and link body weight to health. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit has adopted a Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds approach, which aims to shift the focus away from weight, to overall health. Focusing on weight can lead to weight bias, stigma, and discrimination, which can lead to poor health. We encourage everyone, regardless of their shape or size, to eat a variety of foods and participate in regular physical activity for improved mental well-being for overall health. Visit this link for information about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds approach: Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds – Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
  2. Oral Health Basics – Ontario Dental Association (oda.ca) has information on dental procedures, care and disease prevention, oral conditions and diseases, oral health risk factors, and dental emergencies.
  3. The Government of Canada Oral Health website has information on proper teeth cleaning for infants, children, adults, seniors and pregnant people. There is also information about oral diseases and conditions, including causes, symptoms, risks, prevention, and treatment.

Why oral health is important:

“Cavities and gum disease can be painful and can lead to serious infections, affecting the growth of adult teeth. Pain can result in loss of sleep, affect a child’s ability to eat, and can also affect their ability to learn and attend school” (Healthy Smiles Ontario | ontario.ca).

Key messages for keeping a healthy mouth:

  • Brush 2 x daily for 2 minutes
  • Clean between teeth (i.e., floss) 1 x daily
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste (see recommended guidelines on our website)
  • Drink water and eat a variety of nutritious foods
  • Consult a dental professional regularly

The Canadian Dental Association website has evidence based oral health information, as well as fun activities and tooth brushing logs to get your students excited about their oral health. Sharing these resources with parents/guardians may also help to reinforce these messages at home.

Dental programs to assist with the cost of dental treatment:

Healthy Smiles Ontario is a free dental program for eligible children and youth 17 and under. Good oral health is important to the overall health of children and youth. It is very important to start seeing a dentist when your child is 12 months old, and to keep going regularly. The Healthy Smiles Ontario program covers regular check-ups, preventive care, and treatment. There are 2 ways to access the Healthy Smiles Program. One is the through the general stream, and the other is through the emergency stream. Please have the parent/guardian call the Health Unit at 1-800-660-5853 ext. 2456 to discuss eligibility.

Canada Dental Benefit is an interim federal dental program intended to help lower dental costs for eligible families earning less than $90,000 per year. Parents/guardians can apply if the child receiving dental care is under 12 years old and does not have access to a private dental insurance plan. You can encourage families to visit the Canada Revenue Agency website for more information.

School Dental Screening

Dental screening is provided annually by the Health Unit Oral Health Team to students enrolled in JK, SK, and grade 2 (potentially other grades for medium and high risk schools). Follow-up is required in accordance with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. Dental screening may be provided to other students by parent/guardian request. If you get a request, please direct parents to call us at 1-800-660-5853, ext. 2456. A school dental screening does not replace an exam with a dentist. If a student has a dental problem (cavities, pain or infection) do not wait for the school screening, please have the parent/guardian call the Health Unit or visit a dental professional right away.

Need help finding a dentist?

The Canadian Dental Association website provides guidance for finding a dentist.

Q. Do you provide toothbrushes or toothpaste to classes?

A. We generally do not provide oral hygiene supplies to schools. A couple of options would be to check out a toothbrush or toothpaste company website to see if they have any programs that offer free products, or seek out a private dental office in your area that may donate some products.

Q. Do you provide oral health co-teaching in schools?

A. At this time, we do not. Please refer to the drop downs above for oral health information. If you have any questions, please call the Health Unit at 1-880-660-5853, ext. 2456.

Q. One of my students is reporting tooth pain. Now what?

A. Inform the parent/guardian and suggest they call the Health Unit at 1-880-660-5853, ext. 2456 to discuss dental programs that may help cover the cost of dental treatment.

Q. Where can I find more information about oral health programs and eligibility to help support parents/guardians?

A. Visit the Health Unit Oral Health page or call us at 1-800-660-5853, ext. 2456.