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Smile for Life

Date: 5 May 2006

Subject: Smile for Life

The Canterbury District Health Board takes seriously its mission to improve, promote and protect the health of the people in the community. Its Community & Public Health Division and Community & School Dental teams are preparing to launch the latest oral health initiative funded by the Ministry of Health - ‘Smile for Life’ - next week to combat the epidemic of tooth decay in the region.

Tooth decay is compounded by factors such as diets high in sugar, infrequent use of fluoride toothpaste and not having a fluoridated water supply.

Tooth decay does not discriminate - young, old, rich and poor are all susceptible – but it is preventable.

The main intention of the ‘Smile for Life’ campaign is to deliver the message that as well as enjoying a good healthy and varied diet, there is one other thing that will help keep your teeth healthy: teeth need fluoride.

Methven and Burnham Military Camp are the only two water supplies in Canterbury that are supplemented with fluoride. The natural fluoride levels in other water supplies in our region are only about an eighth of the recommended level for tooth protection. The CDHB initiative - ‘Smile for Life’ - is designed to educate the community on how to look after their teeth if their water supply does not have adequate fluoride levels.

For best protection against tooth decay, everybody should use a fluoride toothpaste twice a day. ‘Low fluoride’ (infant formula) toothpaste is not as effective. Children living in an area with an unfluoridated water supply, should use a standard toothpaste, and this needs to start as soon as the first teeth come through.

In fact, one standard toothpaste is suitable for the whole family. This includes the little ones, parents and grandparents.

Brush twice a day and spit, don’t rinse. Rinsing with water after brushing washes too much fluoride off your teeth.

The negative consequence of tooth decay, are not restricted to the mouth alone. Oral disease, if left untreated affects an individual’s social, economic and physical wellbeing. People can feel ashamed, embarrassed and uncomfortable about showing their teeth or smiling which can have far reaching consequences in terms of social acceptance. Our aim is to ensure that you keep your ‘Smile for Life’.

Approximately 230,000 households, boxes and rural addresses in Canterbury and South Canterbury will receive a copy of the ‘Smile for Life’ pamphlet in their letter box next week. The aim is to educate on how to look after teeth if your water supply is not fluoridated.

Altogether, the Canterbury and South Canterbury District Health Boards spend nearly $10 million each year to provide dental treatment for children and adolescents and even with the clinical advancement of dental technology, the need for clinical intervention is increasing, impacting on limited dental resources.

This epidemic isn’t just confined to children. Dental care statistics for elderly people in Christchurch rest homes indicate that of the 32 percent of residents with at least some of their own teeth, two thirds had at least one untreated decayed tooth and forty percent needed at least one tooth to be extracted.

Many parents and teenagers are not aware that teenagers can receive free dental care. A policy change in 2000, enabled teenagers who had left school (as well as those still at school) to receive free dental care until they turn 18. They just need to call and arrange an appointment with a dentist.

Visit the ‘Smile for Life” website for more information.


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