Health Topics

Dental Health

Dental health is an important part of overall health. Dental problems and diseases such as cavities, gum disease and oral cancer can be associated with other health problems. Brushing and flossing every day and visiting your dentist and dental hygienist regularly are important to you and your family’s overall health.

Children’s Dental Health

Good dental health for children leads to good overall health. Having healthy teeth can help them eat, talk, smile and learn in school.

Babies can get cavities just like older children and adults. 

How to keep your baby’s teeth healthy
Here are some tips on how to keep your baby’s teeth healthy:

  • Clean your baby’s teeth every day
  • Lift your baby’s lip once a month to look at their teeth and gums
  • Take your baby to visit the dentist for the first time when they are one year old
  • Your child should drink from a cup without a lid by 18 months old
  • Use a favourite toy, hugs, stories or songs to comfort your child instead of using a bottle or sippy cup, breastfeeding or food
  • Letting your baby sleep while breastfeeding or with a bottle of juice or milk can harm their teeth.

How to clean your baby’s teeth
Here is how you should clean your baby’s teeth at different ages:

  • Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a wet cloth after feeding them, starting from birth.
  • When your baby gets teeth, use a soft infant toothbrush and water to clean their teeth.
  • If your child is under three years old, ask your dentist if you should use toothpaste to brush their teeth.
  • When your child is three years old, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to brush their teeth twice each day. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste after you finish brushing.

Track your child’s dental health and development with this checklist. Use this checklist for children 0 to 36 months old.

If your child is between 18 and 24 months, does she or he have at least 12 teeth?

or

If your child is between 25 and 36 months, does he or she have at least 16 teeth?

yes / no

By 18 months, most children have 12 to 16 teeth.

By 36 months, most children have 18 to 20 teeth.

The first teeth to come in are the front teeth, followed by the teeth in the back.

Does an adult clean your child’s teeth every day? yes / no Clean your child’s teeth daily using a rice-sized portion of toothpaste. The most important time to clean your child’s teeth is before going to sleep at night.

Are your child’s teeth shiny and white?

yes / no Even toddlers can get tooth decay. Check your child’s teeth at least once a month. Lift the upper lip to see the teeth right up to the gum line. If teeth have chalky-white or brown spots or teeth are chipped or broken, take your child to a dentist.
Has your child seen a dentist or dental hygienist? yes / no Children should have their teeth checked by the time they are one year old by a dentist or a registered dental hygienist so any problems are found early.
Does your child drink mostly from a cup without a lid? yes / no By 18 months, your child should drink from a cup without a lid. Do not let your child constantly sip from a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk, formula, juice, pop, Kool-aid or sugar water.
Does your child sleep without a bottle? yes / no If your child must have a bottle to fall asleep, fill it with plain water. If you are breastfeeding, take your child off the breast when he or she is done actively feeding.
Does your child have set times during the day for meals and snacks? yes / no Your child should have no more than five to six set meal and snack times during the day. Frequent snacking can cause cavities, especially if foods are sticky and sweet. Examples of healthy snacks are cheese, whole grain crackers, yogurt, fruit and vegetables. For snack time drinks, offer plain water, milk or unsweetened fruit or vegetable juice. When your child is thirsty at other times, offer plain water.

If you answered “no” to three or more questions on the checklist, talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about your child’s teeth. 

If you do not have a dentist, call Public Health Services at 905-546-2424 ext. 3789 to speak with a registered dental hygienist.

Source: Adapted from the Community Dental Health Services Research Unit, Ontario Government’s Health Systems Linked Research Units

It is important that your child’s teeth are brushed twice a day, for at least 2 minutes. Use toothpaste with fluoride (size of a pea) to help reduce cavities. Daily flossing of your child’s teeth is also important. Depending on your child’s age, you might need to help them brush and floss their teeth to make sure their teeth are clean. Dental problems can cause poor sleeping, trouble eating, and make it hard to pay attention in school and at home.

Check your child’s teeth at least once a month. Visit a dentist if you see any of these signs:

  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Holes in their teeth
  • Pain
  • Swelling

Review our Free dental care programs to learn about programs in Hamilton.

Adult and Senior Dental Health

Taking care of your teeth and mouth is an important part of your overall health.

Knowing how to properly brush and floss will make it easier to keep your teeth and mouth healthy.

A healthy mouth is necessary for a healthy body. Here are some things you can do to take care of your mouth:

  • Brush twice daily to reduce gum disease and decay
  • Use a soft toothbrush
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste to prevent decay
  • Use floss daily to clean between teeth
  • Remove and clean dentures every day
  • Drink fluoridated water to protect teeth against decay
  • Eat a balanced diet, low in sugar and starches
  • Don’t use tobacco
  • Get regular checkups, even if you have dentures!

Good oral health is ageless. Always keep watch for signs of trouble.

Tooth decay
Adults and seniors, are at risk for two types of decay:

  • new decay: this can start around the edges of fillings
  • root decay: this can progress quickly because exposed roots are not protected by enamel

Gum disease
An infection caused by bacteria in the mouth:

  • factors that increase gum disease include poor oral hygiene, stress, smoking, medications, and poor diet
  • watch for red swollen gums, bleeding when you brush, loose teeth, bad breath, or gum recession

Dry mouth

  • some causes include medications, radiation therapy, diabetes, dehydration
  • dry mouth can cause cavities and other infections, and can make it hard to eat, swallow, taste and speak
  • to prevent dry mouth drink lots of water, sugarless drinks, or suck on sugarless lozenges
  • avoid sugary drinks and candies, alcohol, caffeine and tobacco
  • talk to a dental professional about products that can help

Oral cancer
Look for early signs of oral cancer:

  • see a dentist immediately if you notice any of the following signs on your lips or in your mouth: red or white patches, sores that don’t heal, swelling or unusual hard spots
  • your dental professional does regular screening for oral cancer at every check up
  • check your own mouth between visits

Existing health conditions
Diabetes, heart disease, and cancer can increase the risk of developing gum disease

  • gum disease can complicate these medical conditions

Visit your dentist
Get a check-up every year, even if you wear dentures:

  • let your dentist know about any new or existing health conditions
  • inform your dentist about any changes or trouble signs in your mouth
  • bring a complete list of medications, including over the counter medicine
  • tell your dentist if you need help brushing or flossing

Problems in your mouth can affect your overall health and wellness

A healthy mouth is necessary for a healthy body. Everyone needs to practice good oral hygiene, even people with dentures.

If not cleaned properly, plaque and bacteria will grow on dentures and remaining teeth. This causes gum disease. Gum disease has been linked to other serious health conditions such as diabetes and pneumonia. Following these general guidelines can help reduce plaque build-up and extend the life or your dentures.

Denture care do’s

  • Use a denture brush or soft toothbrush to brush dentures inside and out
  • Clean around clasps and metal parts of partial dentures
  • Use denture cleaner or mild soap and water
  • Hold dentures carefully over a half-filled sink of water lined with a facecloth to protect the dentures in case they are dropped
  • Always take dentures out at night to give your gums a chance to rest
  • Store dentures overnight in a container of warm water or denture cleaning solution
  • Clean gums, tongue, and roof of mouth while your dentures are out
  • Rinse dentures well before putting them back in your mouth

Denture care don’ts

  • Don’t use hot water to clean or soak dentures, this can change the shape of your denture
  • Don’t use a hard or stiff bristled brush to clean dentures, it may scratch the surface of your denture
  • Don’t use cleaners that can scratch your dentures
  • Don’t use bleach to clean or soak your dentures, this could affect the color and strength of your denture

Always remember to

  • Check dentures regularly for cracks or broken teeth.
  • Regularly check for proper fit. Loose fitting dentures can cause discomfort and make chewing difficult.
  • Get dentures adjusted, repaired, or eventually replaced.
  • Label dentures and storage containers with your name.
  • Have regular check-ups with your dental professional and denturist.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste to brush natural teeth.
  • Use floss to clean between natural teeth.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in:

  • Water
  • Plants
  • Rocks
  • Soil
  • Air
  • Most foods

You can also get fluoride through drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwash or fluoride treatments at the dentist.

Fluoride prevents cavities (tooth decay). Fluoride works by making the outer layer of teeth, called tooth enamel, stronger. When the outer layer is strong, teeth are less likely to get cavities.

  • Cavities can lead to tooth loss over time.
  • Fluoride protects your teeth from childhood right through to the senior years.
  • Water fluoridation provides additional protection to fluoridated toothpaste.

A fluoride treatment at the dentist's office protects your teeth from the outside. Water fluoridation protects your teeth from the inside, making them more resistant to cavities.

Dental fluorosis, a condition that changes how teeth look, occurs if children get too much fluoride when their adult teeth are forming.

  • It looks like white flecks on teeth.
  • Severe forms look like brown stains and/or pitting on the tooth surface.
  • Dental fluorosis is usually caused by swallowing toothpaste or other fluoride products, not just from drinking fluoridated water. Watch children brush their teeth to make sure they spit out and do not swallow toothpaste.
  • Dental fluorosis is not harmful to health. It is a cosmetic condition.
  • It is not a problem for older children or adults.
  • Dental fluorosis is very uncommon in Hamilton.

To keep your teeth and your family’s teeth healthy:

  • Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums with a wet cloth after feeding and before bed, starting from birth. Do not use toothpaste.
  • When teeth begin to appear, clean teeth and gums with a wet cloth or a very soft infant toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste.
  • When your child is three years old, use fluoridated toothpaste twice a day to brush their teeth. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste after brushing.
  • Children should only get fluoride treatments from a dentist’s office. Talk to your dentist before giving your child fluoride supplements.
  • All family members should visit the dentist twice per year, beginning at age one.
  • Drink fluoridated water.
  • Eat and drink healthy foods and beverages, choosing those with less sugar.

Your baby can drink fluoridated water.

  • The best food for babies is breast milk. 
  • Drinking water in Hamilton is safe to use for preparing baby formula.
  • Well water fluoride levels can vary and water should be tested before using it to prepare baby formula. The optimal level of fluoride is 0.6 ppm.  Prepare baby formula with other sources of drinking water (e.g., bottled water) if levels of fluoride in the well water are high, especially if it is higher than 1.5 ppm.