More than half of children aged seven to nine in Simcoe and Muskoka have tooth decay, a new report on oral health in the region says.
Focus on HealthSTATS: Oral Health in Simcoe and Muskoka, states that the dental health of local children ranks in the bottom third in the province.
The findings were based on comparisons with other health units in the province. The report also shows preventable oral health problems in all ages.
It points to a variety of factors that contribute to poor oral health in the region.
* While most people understand the importance of tooth brushing and diet, there are areas where families need education to understand further ways to prevent decay in their children’s teeth.
* The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit hasn’t always been successful in directing parents to free preventive services for children such as topical fluoride varnishes and pit-and-fissure treatment.
* Low income and lack of dental health coverage in insurance plans make people avoid trips to the dentist. The report estimates 154,000 people in Simcoe and Muskoka are without dental coverage.
* Fluoridation of municipal water supply is a known means of preventing tooth decay, but fluoridated water is only available in Muskoka towns and in Tottenham in Simcoe County.
“Our dental hygienists have known for some time that oral health problems were increasing, especially among children,” said Bill Mindell, director of clinical services for the health unit. “But this report puts some hard numbers before us to help us plan some response.”
The oral health status report also offers other recommendations for action to address the problem.
These include more screening services to catch oral health problems early in children; making available more fluoridated drinking water; and providing more accessible preventive dental care and treatment for all ages, especially those on low incomes and without dental insurance.
With an expanded provincial funding program, the health unit will now be able to direct financial support for qualified children in need of treatment up to their 18th birthday.
“This expansion in public dental health services is welcome, but in its 2008 budget, the province had committed itself to spending more to provide further dental care assistance for low income families,” said Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner. “So our board of health is calling on the province to fully implement the commitments made in its 2008 budget.”
The full oral health status report is available on the website www.simcoemuskokahealthstats.org.
The site publishes the findings of public health unit research conducted throughout the year.
For information about preventive dental care or health unit dental programs, call Your Health Connection at 721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a. m. to 4:30 p. m.
Note: See also press release from the Ontario Dental Association