U of T researchers help fight childhood tooth decay in First Nations communities

The University of Toronto will help the Canadian Institutes of Health Research work towards reducing tooth decay among First Nations children thanks to $1.2 million in funding.

The research will examine a new approach to dental care that employs four concurrent therapies to people living within First Nations communities. Its goal is to reduce the marked early childhood caries disparities that exist between First Nations and non-First Nations children in Canada.

The new therapy will commence this spring in several communities across Ontario and Manitoba. Canadian results are to be compared with results accumulated by researchers working in Australia and New Zealand.

Four other Canadian Universities will join the University of Toronto for this investigation including the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (Laurentian University), the University of Manitoba, the University College of the North, and the University of Waterloo. The five-year study is called “Reducing disease burden and health inequalities arising from chronic dental disease among Indigenous children: an early childhood caries intervention.”

Professor Herenia Lawrence from the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, says that early childhood caries is a significant health problem confronting Indigenous communities in all three countries.

“We hope that by working in partnership with Aboriginal communities here in Canada we can create an intervention that will reduce the dental treatment needs of young children and motivate mothers to subscribe to better preventative oral health practices,” she said. “Our long-term goal is to create a culturally appropriate intervention that reduces dental disease burden and health inequalities among pre-school Indigenous children in the participating countries and that can be readily applied to other populations with high levels of early childhood caries.”

Professor Sabrina Peressini, also from the University of Toronto said, “A caregiver’s positive perceptions surrounding the importance of the primary dentition are vital to making dentally healthy infant rearing choices. This intervention is important because it will help to promote positive messages and provide dental information during pregnancy, a time when caring for a child’s teeth is not usually considered. Caregivers will therefore have a greater opportunity to develop dentally healthy choices once their child is born.”