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Supporting the Healthy Smiles
of NunatuKavut Children

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About the Project

What is this research about:
Graphic- Fact Sheet

View the fact sheet »
(PDF, 420 KB)

We are conducting a three-year research study on the oral health of children living in south-eastern Labrador. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) – Institute of Aboriginal Peoples health is funding the research.

Purpose: This research project will bring together two kinds of knowledge – biomedical knowledge and Indigenous knowledge – that will make an unique contribution to our understanding of the oral health of Aboriginal children.

What does ‘Kungatsiajuk’ mean?

Kungatsiajuk is an Inuktitut word that means ‘healthy smiles’.

What is the oral health research study?

The study will be collecting information on the dental health of children in southeastern Labrador, talking with community members, and working with community members to create and share stories about oral health.

Who will be conducting the research?

The research is being conducted by Drs. Debbie Martin, Mary McNally, and Heather Castleden. The researchers are faculty members at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The research team has worked with a Community Advisory Commitee and the NunatuKavut Health and Social Sector to develop an agreement on how the research will be conducted.

Why is this research being done?

This study will allow us to gather information that may help to make dental services better for children and youth in southeastern Labrador.

This project has six key objectives:

  • Objective 1: Identify community perspectives regarding issues related to oral health promotion and oral health care service delivery in NunatuKavut.
  • Objective 2: Collect baseline oral health data for children aged birth-17.
  • Objective 3: Design and implement two community-level interventions for children, tailored to the oral health needs, resources and preferences of the community.
  • Objective 4: Establish and examine the role and utilization of oral health navigation services provided by a Healthy Smiles Coordinator
  • Objective 5: Monitor and evaluate the participatory processes, and our ability to generate community-driven policy recommendations related to oral health promotion and oral health service delivery.
  • Objective 6: Provide policy recommendations that will inform culturally-appropriate oral health promotion activities and oral health service delivery.

Oral Health is a Research Priority in NunatuKavut

The recognition that poor oral health is an important health priority for people living in communities along the southeast coast of Labrador is not new. The Grenfell Mission organized volunteer dentists to provide dental services in these communities as early as the 1800s. More recently, in 2006, community leaders and researchers participated in an interdisciplinary community-based health planning workshop, ‘Community Health Research in Labrador: Listening, Learning and Working Together’ which identified poor oral health as among the top research priorities requiring immediate attention.

Logistic and financial barriers associated with geographic isolation and travel costs are identified as being among the greatest impediments to accessing professional dental care. This suggests that even though children have publicly-funded dental coverage, other significant barriers prevent them from receiving consistent dental services. Access to healthy food is also challenging due to lack of availability and high cost. This leads to less healthy food options, which can also have a negative impact on oral health. Service delivery and health promotion initiatives required to meet the oral health needs of this population are currently largely unknown.


oral care, community-based, intervention research, Aboriginal communities, children, disease prevention, Inuit of NunatuKavut, Newfoundland and Labrador