Going to the dentist has been ingrained in American life as a common (hopefully yearly) occurrence. You are taught from exceptionally young ages the importance of proper oral hygiene, how consistent and thorough maintenance can prevent cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay. Unfortunately, that understanding is a luxury. For the indigenous cultures of Northern Canada who rarely venture into the populated south, it just isn’t something that is addressed, and the consequences are horrific.
Márta Demoth worked as a dentist in Nunavut, one of Canada’s northernmost provinces, for two years. She saw roughly 3,000 patients in that time, many of whom had tooth decay so far gone that she often had no choice but to extract their teeth rather than repair them. Most of the children would go years without seeing dentists or oral health professionals, Demoth stated at the recent International Congress on Circumpolar Heath in Copenhagen,
“No one shows them how to brush teeth.” As a result, tooth decay is two to three times worse among Inuit than among other Canadians.
Since many of these communities rely on meat as a traditional source of meat, the absence of teeth can make chewing it nearly impossible, contributing to poor nutrition as well. She even stated the disturbing trend of teenagers being okay with missing teeth: it’s so common that it’s become socially acceptable.
It can be astonishing to think about a teenager saying or thinking such a thing; the society we live in sees teens gawking at the idea of needing to wear braces for a few years, and that’s an oral health device that improves your smile. Odds are, the northern cultures in Canada would outright refuse such a treatment.
Interestingly enough, however, there are oral devices that can even aid in cases of sleep apnea. The screw industry (including the manufacture of nuts and bolts) employs around 131,949 people, and tiny micro screws are used in dentistry to expand the palate in the roof of your mouth: by tightening the tiny screws of the palatal expander, nasal pressure is reduced and breathing patterns are improved.
While Nunavummiut people may not have any interest or access to such oral devices, Demoth’s dedication to their plight is making headway: a children’s oral health program which aims to promote good oral hygiene and prevent dental illnesses, is currently underway.