Good oral hygiene
Good oral hygiene is when a mouth looks and smells healthy. It is when the teeth are clean and free of debris; gums are pink and do not hurt or bleed when they are brushed or flossed.The World Health Organisation reports that worldwide, 60–90 per cent of school children and nearly 100 per cent of adults have dental cavities, often leading to pain and discomfort.
Dental cavities and periodontal disease are major causes of tooth loss. Complete loss of natural teeth is widespread, and particularly, affects older people. Globally, about 30 per cent of people aged 65 and 74 have no natural teeth.In a chat with The Guardian, Dr. Olorode Ayodele, who is a senior dental officer at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), described oral care as the activity a person carries out in order to make the oral environment free from dental diseases.
“The most frequent oral diseases we see here at the dental hospital are dental cavities, swelling of the gum, sour in the mouth and oral cancer,” Olorode said, adding: “There are three types of dental cavity; pit and fissure, root and smooth surface decay. In smooth surface decay, a cavity begins as a white spot, where bacteria dissolve the calcium of the enamel. Smooth surface decay between the permanent teeth usually begins between the ages of 20 and 30.”
He continued, “pit and fissure decay usually begins in the permanent teeth forms in the narrow grooves on the chewing surface and on the cheek side of the back teeth. While root decay occurs on the root surface covering which receding gums have exposed and usually affects older adults.”
According to him, “smooth surface decay spreads around the teeth slowly, but it is preventable and reversible. However, pit and fissure decay spreads faster. A lot of people find difficult to clean the cavity –prone areas because the grooves are narrower than the bristles of a toothbrush. Decay in the root is due to difficulty in cleaning the root areas and lack of adequate saliva flow.’’
Severe gum (periodontal) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15–20 per cent of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults. Prevalence of gum disease is high during pregnancy. “When my patients, who are pregnant, come to the hospital, they usually complain about bleeding gums, gum sensitivity and sensitive teeth. Morning sickness can cause permanent damage to teeth. When a pregnant woman vomits, the stomach acids, which is very strong, weakens the tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay erosion. It is vital that during pregnancy, women take appropriate steps to help protect their teeth.”
He added, “regular dental checkup during pregnancy is not only safe but also important for her dental health, and for the well being of her unborn baby.”According to Ayodele, other oral healthcare issues that patients may present in the dental clinic are tooth trauma, missing teeth, bad breath (halitosis), tooth wear, tooth sensitivity, mouth sores, joint pains, wisdom tooth pains and oral tumors.
However, speaking on tooth sensitivity in puberty, Ayodele explained that as sex hormones rise in puberty, consequent increase in cavity formation (tooth decay) takes place.This eventually leads to exposure of microscopic canal (or tubules) and nerve endings in the dentine. As a result of this, the decaying tooth becomes sensitive.
He explained, “puberty related changes do occur in the oral environment. During this period there is a rise in production of sex hormones (testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone), which could result in swelling, redness, and bleeding of the gum. These reactions are usually preceded by dilation of small blood vessels in the gum.
This condition affects the normal bacterial flora in such a way that there is an increase in harmful pathologic bacteria in the mouth. The destructive effect, during this period, could be avoided by paying more attention to oral health care to avoid possible occurrence of mouth odour, gingivitis, caries and mouth sores.”
For the dental doctor, the common causes of poor oral health care are unhealthy diet, smoking, and a diet high in sugar and poor oral hygiene. ‘’Not a lot of patients visit the dental clinic regularly, they only come when they are in pains.’’
Prevention is always better than cure. So for a proper oral healthcare we need to avoid smoking or chewing of tobacco and also reduce the level of alcohol we consume.
Regular visit to the clinic for check up every six months, brushing of teeth twice daily, use of dental floss daily.
One should also note that use of fluoride containing toothpaste, fluoridated water and deliberate, regular consumption of fruits, vegetables and natural supplements help protect against oral cancers.