“Put your Purple On” is the slogan for Oral Health Month, which is in April. Oral Health Month is an annual event that celebrates the work that dental professionals do. With National Dental Hygiene Week between April 4 to April 10, getting an oral checkup might be something to keep in the back of your mind.   

During the first and second years of the pandemic, dental visits dropped between 60 per cent and 65 per cent compared to what they normally would be. 

Leona Le Lievre, Registered Dental Hygienist, Owner/Operator, from CUSP Dental Hygiene in Airdrie, says oral health is important because it affects your overall health. 

“If you have an infection in one part of your body, it can be carried to other parts of your body and can make you feel sick,” says Le Lievre. “Everything in the body is connected. If you have an abscessed tooth, or an area of your mouth where you have a bad gum infection, it's going to affect everything in your body. If you have an infection and your white blood cell count goes up, it's just not around the tooth, it runs through your bloodstream, through your heart, and everywhere.” 

To practice in Alberta, Dental Hygienists must be registered with the College of Registered Dental Hygienists of Alberta (CRDHA). Hygienists who work independently or in a dental office. They clean teeth to prevent periodontal disease. The work that a dental hygienist does can prevent the tooth from decaying. The purpose of Oral Health Month is to remind people they shouldn't ignore bleeding gums, sore teeth, or irritation and pain in the mouth. 

The way that the body functions and the way that the blood flows can make all oral health diseases and illnesses equally dangerous to overall health. A small cavity can grow into a big problem if it's not treated or taken care of properly. It does not take long for a small cavity to become a major issue. Once the cavity channels through the first layer of the enamel, the tooth is no longer able to protect itself from dangerous bacteria. The first layer of enamel allows the inside of the tooth to remain protected.   

“Once the cavity gets through the second layer it is almost like a sponge. The bacteria just grows, it can turn into a very large cavity and the tooth can break or become an abscess needing a root canal or even an extraction,” says Le Lievre.  

Some might think their mouth is clean and sterile because of the saliva that is in it, but saliva does not scrub away bacteria and plaque. Mouths are one of the first places that show symptoms of some diseases, including high blood pressure and anemia.  

"Most common types of oral diseases are lacking preventative care."  Le Lievre continues, “You'd be looking at gingivitis or periodontitis. These are things that are completely preventable with basic dental hygiene care and regular cleanings." 

The Government of Canada says having poor oral health contributes to serious health issues like diabetes, respiratory, cardiovascular, and brain diseases as well as cancer. There is a portion of oral health issues that can be prevented. Daily tooth brushing and flossing is the best way to keep your oral health clean. Oral health can also be improved by avoiding tobacco, cannabis, e-cigarettes, alcohol, sugary beverages, and foods.   

The Government of Canada also says the cost to treat oral health is going to become cheaper because of a government-funded dental care program. It will cover children under the age of 12 by the end of this year and by 2023 the program should be open to people under 18, people with disabilities, and seniors. 

The federal government plans to have free dental care implemented by 2025. Canadians who will have access to this program will need to have a total combined household income of less than 90000 dollars per year. If your household income is under 70000 dollars per year you won’t have any copayments.  

The Parliamentary Budget Office calculated a National Dental Care Plan in the fall of 2020 which discovered roughly 6.5 million people would benefit from the program. To establish the program, the government will need to pay an annual fee of 1.5 billion dollars per year through 2024 and 2025.