Canadian Journal of Public Health

, Volume 107, Issue 2, pp e188–e193 | Cite as

The Children’s Oral Health Initiative: An intervention to address the challenges of dental caries in early childhood in Canada’s First Nation and Inuit communities

  • Kavita R. Mathu-MujuEmail author
  • James McLeod
  • Mary Lou Walker
  • Martin Chartier
  • Rosamund L. Harrison
Public Health Intervention


OBJECTIVE: The objective of the Children’s Oral Health Initiative (COHI) is to increase access to preventive oral health services provided to First Nations and Inuit (FN/I) children living on federal reserves and in remote communities.

PARTICIPANTS: COHI targets preschool children; 5–7-year-olds; pregnant women; and parents/caregivers in FN/I communities.

SETTING: The program was piloted in 2004 by Health Canada and is potentially available to all FN/I communities. However, the community must consent to the program’s implementation and agree to support a community member to be trained as a COHI aide.

INTERVENTION: Dental therapists and hygienists screen eligible children, apply fluoride varnish and sealants to children’s teeth, and stabilize active dental caries with glass ionomer. An innovation was the development of a community oral health worker, the COHI Aide. The COHI Aide is a community member who serves as an advocate for preventive oral health in the community and provides instruction to children, parent/caregivers and expectant mothers in preventing dental caries.

RESULTS: COHI was piloted in 41 communities in 2004. By 2014, the program had expanded to 320 FN/I communities, which represents 55% of all eligible FN/I communities. In 2012, 23,085 children had received COHI preventive oral health services.

CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate COHI’s success as a preventive oral health care delivery model in remote communities. Implementation and delivery of preventive oral health services has been enhanced by the sustained presence of a community-based COHI Aide.

Key words

Indigenous health services pediatric dentistry oral health dental caries community health worker 


OBJECTIF: L’Initiative en santé buccodentaire des enfants (ISBE) vise à élargir l’accès aux services de santé buccodentaire préventifs offerts aux enfants inuits et des Premières Nations (IPN) vivant dans les réserves fédérales et les communautés éloignées.

PARTICIPANTS: L’ISBE cible les enfants d’âge préscolaire, les enfants de 5 à 7 ans, les femmes enceintes, et les parents et aidants vivant dans les communautés IPN.

LIEU: Mis à l’essai par Santé Canada en 2004, le programme est potentiellement disponible dans toutes les communautés IPN. Toutefois, la communauté doit consentir à la mise en œuvre du programme et accepter de soutenir la formation d’un membre de la communauté comme représentant ou représentante en santé dentaire pour l’ISBE.

INTERVENTION: Des thérapeutes et des hygiénistes dentaires filtrent les enfants admissibles, appliquent un vernis fluoré et un scellant sur les dents des enfants et stabilisent les caries dentaires actives avec du verre ionomère. L’une des innovations du programme a été la création du poste de représentant ou représentante en santé dentaire pour l’ISBE. Cette personne plaide en faveur de la santé buccodentaire préventive dans la communauté et donne des instructions aux enfants, aux parents ou aidants et aux femmes enceintes sur la prévention de la carie dentaire.

RÉSULTATS: L’ISBE a été mise à l’essai dans 41 communautés en 2004. Dix ans plus tard, l’initiative était présente dans 320 communautés IPN, soit 55% des communautés IPN admissibles. En 2012, 23 085 enfants avaient reçu des services de santé buccodentaire préventifs de l’ISBE.

CONCLUSION: Ces résultats indiquent que l’ISBE est un modèle efficace de prestation de soins buccodentaires préventifs dans les communautés éloignées. La mise en œuvre et la prestation des services de santé buccodentaire préventifs sont rehaussées par la présence continue d’un représentant ou d’une représentante en santé dentaire pour l’ISBE.

Mots clés

services de santé autochtones dentisterie pédiatrique santé buccodentaire caries dentaires auxiliaires de santé communautaire 


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Copyright information

© The Canadian Public Health Association 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kavita R. Mathu-Muju
    • 1
    Email author
  • James McLeod
    • 2
  • Mary Lou Walker
    • 3
  • Martin Chartier
    • 4
  • Rosamund L. Harrison
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Pediatric DentistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Manitoba RegionWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.B.C. First Nations Health AuthorityVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Health Promotion and Chronic Diseases Prevention, Public Health Agency of CanadaOttawaCanada
  5. 5.Division of Pediatric DentistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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