Dental and Public Health Leaders From Canada and the U.S. Target Cavity-Free Future for Children

Dental and Public Health Leaders From Canada and the U.S. Target Cavity-Free Future for Children


CHICAGO—This weekend at the American Public Health Association meeting, leaders in dentistry and public health joined together to launch the Canada-United States Chapter of the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future (the Alliance). The Alliance aims to facilitate collaboration among the various professional groups who impact oral health with a specific focus on children under the age of six.

Worldwide, 60–90 percent of school children and nearly 100 percent of adults have tooth decay.(1) In fact, dental caries (which includes all stages of tooth decay) is the most common, yet preventable, chronic disease on the planet. The impact of this disease has a profound impact on children in North America. In Canada, an estimated 2.26 million school days are missed each year due to dental related illness.(2) In the United States, a child is five times more likely to seek emergency room treatment for dental problems than for asthma, often because they can’t see a dentist, are uninsured or can’t afford routine dental care.(3)

There are multiple steps in the formation of a cavity. First, bacteria that develop on the teeth between twice-daily brushing break down sugars in all the foods we eat and drink. These bacteria produce acid, which can attack and dissolve tooth enamel. Ultimately, calcium is lost from the enamel, resulting in a weak spot, the first stage of cavity development. If left unchecked or untreated, tooth decay continues and a cavity develops. With proper management and intervention, early forms of tooth decay—known as caries—can actually be stopped and reversed.

“Too often, we accept the occurrence of cavities as the status quo,” said Margherita Fontana, DDS, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan School of Dentistry and Chapter co-chair. “We know caries management is achievable by utilizing evidence-based approaches to reverse, stop and prevent tooth decay, and by establishing inter-professional partnerships that can help reduce disparities in certain populations of children.”

National Declaration to Elevate New Way of Looking at Caries As part of the launch event, national leaders signed a declaration committing to the goals of the Alliance. As an initial goal, the ACFF Canada-US Chapter will aim to facilitate inter-professional collaboration for caries prevention and management, by increasing the number of medical offices that routinely recommend brushing a child’s teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, a healthy diet and the use of fluoride varnish. “Collaboration is essential for comprehensive prevention and management of caries in both Canada and the U.S.,” said Alyssa Hayes, BDent(Hons), MSc, FRCD(C), Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan, and Chapter co-chair. “We need to commit to developing systems at various jurisdictional levels which encourage the policy makers and all health professionals to work together in addressing this disease. Collectively we can educate the public and encourage leaders in health care to take action.”

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