April is Oral Health Month in Canada


Healthy Smiles for All First Nations People in BC


A message from Dr. Kamran Golmohammadi, Medical Officer, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer; and Ashley Lessard, Program Lead, Oral Health and Dental Therapy, FNHA Health Benefits Team

National Oral Health Month is an opportune time to talk about the importance of maintaining good oral health – and to highlight some of the services we provide for First Nations people in BC.

Having good oral health is connected to overall health, well-being, and quality of life – in fact, it is just as important as eating healthy, being active, and not using tobacco when it comes to preventing chronic diseases! That's why it's so important to take care of our teeth and gums by brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Oral health issues like tooth decay, tooth loss, and gum diseases are preventable, and effectively preventing them will have significantly positive impacts on our health and life in general. 

Preventing tooth decay in children can promote a lifetime of oral and overall health. We can begin teaching our children lifelong good oral health practices when they are very young, and ensure they are taken to oral health professionals regularly. We can also include in our diets the many traditional foods and beverages that are nutrient-rich and low in sugar, which is harmful to both teeth and health. 

This advice, while solid, has not been as straightforward to follow as it sounds. As a result of colonization, First Nations people in BC and Canada disproportionately suffer from health issues, including oral health issues, when compared to the general population. Food insecurity has led to the consumption of more readily available, non-nutritious, “empty-calorie" food products as well as foods and beverages high in sugar, which increase tooth decay. This has been further complicated by delays in the management of tooth decay resulting in tooth loss due to inequities in accessing oral health services.

The FNHA strives to disrupt these and other devastating effects of colonization by working to transform the health care system for First Nations people in BC. This includes following our oral health strategy, “Healthy Smiles for Life," which focuses on:

  • identifying key promotion, prevention and treatment services to support improved oral health;
  • identifying barriers to accessing prevention and treatment services;
  • developing strategies to address these barriers;
  • increasing knowledge exchange and support practices to improve oral health; and
  • identifying a human resource strategy to support prevention and treatment services.

We have been doing all of this for several years now, including funding and operating the following initiatives.

The FNHA Community Oral Health Services employs passionate and dedicated oral health providers, including dental therapists and dental hygienists, to improve access to oral health care in First Nations communities, particularly in remote and isolated areas. FNHA dental providers deliver a range of preventive and treatment-focused oral health services in collaboration with a dentist consultant, including routine check-ups for early detection of oral health issues, teeth cleaning, polishing, fluoride applications, application of pit and fissure sealants, and individualized client-centered education. To be directed to this or any other program at the FNHA, you can email info@fnha.ca.

The FNHA Children's Oral Health Initiative is an early-childhood tooth-decay-prevention program for children aged 0 to seven years. This initiative aims to reach out to caregivers and pregnant women living in-community or accessing in-community resources. It is delivered by a dental professional and an aide. The aide is most often a community member who acts as an essential link between the oral health professional and the community. They act as oral health knowledge keepers in the community and work collaboratively with the provider to implement services when the provider is in a community. Currently, services are provided in 80 on-reserve communities in BC. To be directed to this or any other program at the FNHA, you can email info@fnha.ca.

See our website for cultural knowledge information about traditional foods or about the First Nations Perspective on Health & Wellness, which includes the critical importance of taking care of ourselves mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically in order to achieve a healthy and balanced life. Caring for our oral health, as part of our physical health, contributes to our overall health and wellness.

Please ask your community health leaders for more information about the oral health services available in your community. For more information about good oral health and oral health initiatives, please see the following resources:

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