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  • Writer's pictureGurher Sidhu

The scary thing about oral hygiene inequity

Everyone knows the drill by now—brush your teeth twice a day, floss them once. Maybe use some mouthwash, and maybe avoid sugary drinks with every meal (something about that enamel you keep hearing about).

These are some of the steps you take to care for your teeth, because you know they are important. Sometimes you forget, sometimes you get lazy (It’s okay, you’ll remember to floss tonight!).

But what if the reason you don’t brush your teeth today is that you don’t have access to a toothbrush?

Unfortunately, oral hygiene inequity is a very real issue, and it’s happening right here. Many youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto do not have access to the most basic oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste and toothbrushes. These young people are already experiencing one of the toughest chapters in their lives.

What makes this type of oral hygiene inequity so scary?

There are a few reasons. Firstly, access to a toothbrush and toothpaste is a matter of dignity. Everybody deserves the ability to do the most basic act of self-care—brushing their teeth. After all, no matter how stressful your day has been, you always remember to brush your teeth. Such a simple act provides a sense of normalcy and dignity. Youth experiencing homelessness need these things the most.

Moreover, it’s a health concern. Canadians are known to believe in healthcare access for all, and basic oral hygiene is indeed healthcare. You know, for instance, that not taking care of your teeth leads to tooth decay, cavities, and pain (it also contributes to many diseases like cardiovascular disease and pneumonia). People experiencing homelessness are facing many difficulties; painful cavities, which will likely be left untreated, should not be added to the list. Something as simple as a toothbrush will help prevent this.

Finally, there are extreme social costs to oral hygiene inequity. Having a healthy smile allows for the confidence that is so necessary to succeed in society—in forming personal relationships, but also professional ones. That’s how oral hygiene inequity strengthens other inequities—bad breath, decaying/missing teeth, etc. prevent people from achieving their full potential in many aspects of life. Arguably, youth experiencing homelessness are facing more pressing issues. However, these young people deserve to dream of a future where homelessness is no longer something they are facing. When this dream becomes reality, the state of their smile should not be a barrier to further success. This is especially important considering the cost of dental work—prevention, in the form of basic oral hygiene, will always be cheaper.

Dignity, health, and success. These are the costs of oral hygiene inequity. Here at TorontoTooth, we believe local youth experiencing homelessness deserve better. We help fill the gap in basic oral hygiene access by providing toothbrushes and toothpaste for this vulnerable population.

Your donation will go far in helping reduce oral hygiene inequity—and its scary side effects—in Toronto. Just $10 will help us to provide 4 youths with a dental hygiene kit. Please click on the link below to learn more.


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