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Oral hygiene: managing tooth decay

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Crop man examining oral cavity of young African-American man working in in dental clinic with assistant.

By Sarah Achen Kibisi

Did you know that the wellbeing of your mouth has an effect of your entire body?

You do not want to have people running away when you open your mouth, because this will not only affect your esteem, but also your public image.

The health of your mouth, teeth and gums can affect your general wellbeing and you need to be cautious about it.

According to Dr John Jabo, a dentist from Trinity Dental Services, Wandegeya, oral hygiene refers to the habit of maintaining the mouth clean and keeping it disease-free.

It contains brushing and flossing the teeth, in line with visiting a dentist for examinations and cleanings routinely.

Teeth are composed of four dental tissues: the enamel, dentin, cementum and pulp, which should be given attention while brushing.

A father helps his daughter brush her teeth. (Photo/Healthline)

Dr Jabo says: “When the cavity is clean the bacteria will not cause any problems, if a bacteria finds remains of food, it will definitely cause trouble.”

He explains that when you eat food and fail to brush your teeth immediately, the bacteria will interact with the food, producing acid, waste products and enzymes which will produce acid that ends up eating the tooth.

He further says the bacteria creates a hole on the surface of the enamel, thereby eating the tooth.

How to keep oral health
“When you get such a tooth problem, the best alternative is to visit your dentist for treatment. If you go early for examination, the dentist may recommend or conduct cementing. Thereafter, cavity treatment is given at least six months after cementing,” Jabo says.

Oral hygiene is an important part of human life, but with little attention. (Photo/Dental Companion)

The dentist advises that one should always brush their teeth after having a meal. When brushing ensure that there is no food left on the surface.

Brushing after supper is recommended because this is the time when the bacteria is dormant. Also, do not forget to brush the tongue because it smells if not cleaned.

Ensure to visit a dentist at least twice a year in order to detect the problems earlier. Have regular checkups, and replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

Also, it is advised to keep away from tobacco use and eating sweet foods like cake, sweets, chocolate and more.

Always keep a tab of your dentist even when you are not having tooth problems in a bid to have good oral health.

If you have any holes or spaces in your teeth, ensure to visit a dentist and do a tooth replacement.

The perception that when you remove or extract one tooth the rest of the teeth will be affected at one time is not true.

Extractions, filling and replacements depend on the stage at which it is.

If you experience a tooth pain at an early stage, do permanent cement and later do root canal. Early cementing is part of the solution because the problems may extend to another stage.

Tobacco smoking and eating sweet foods like candy and sweets may lead to tooth decay. (Photos/Medscape)

Causes of tooth decay
According to Jabo, tooth decay is a result of bacteria and new things. It happens especially if foods rich in carbohydrates are left on the teeth.

These foods may include milk, chocolate, sweets, cake, fruits or bread. The bacteria that is usually in the mouth converts these foods into acids.

It should be noted that bacteria is the major cause of gum diseases and tooth decay.

He adds that habits such as sugary stuffs are one of the most loved foods by the bacteria and is what they feed on most of the time.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids after you eat or drink.

Plaque can also develop under the gums on tooth roots and break down the bones that support teeth, leading to decay.

Martin Muhereza, a patient I found at Trinity Dental clinic, says he was told the cause of his teeth hitches was because of using them to open glass bottles.

He shockingly admitted to this habit, but also said was unaware it would lead him to the extent of having several root canals.

Tooth decay causes a lot of pain. (Photos/Children’s Dental Health)

“I do not have to look for a bottle opener when I have my teeth. Unfortunately, this has caused cracks in my teeth and I feel pain. I did not think it would be serious”, he said.

Dr Jabo says habits like biting nails and opening bottles with teeth may cause teeth problems.

They are known as parafunctional habits. Habits that exercise a body part in a way that is other than its most common use.

Other harmful practices and foods that cause cavities may include eating lots of sugar, starchy snacks, and sugary fruits, among others.

Dr Jabo adds that people should be cautious while using painkillers. Once the pain is intolerable, remove the tooth or do a root canal.

Cases, treatment
At Trinity Dental Services, most of the cases they receive are of tooth pain or broken teeth.

In case of broken teeth, they do dental filling. When one has tooth ache, an examination is done to find out the cause.

When the tooth is damaged, an extraction may be done. A damaged tooth may cause gums to swell, which leads to mouth adour.

Paul Etima says he suffered mental and physical torture due to toothache. When he went to the nearest facility for medical assistance, he could not get immediate help.

This worsened his pain and he opted for an extraction instead of root canal that he had wanted in the first place.

The clinic he went to first did not offer the service he needed; he was referred to another hospital. There, his woes continued because he did not have the money that the hospital needed to treat him.

He resorted to a dental facility about three kilometres further as he endured excruciating pain.

Frequent dental checkups could save you from tooth decay. (Photo/UVA)

“At the clinic, I neared the luck of having the root canal treatment at Shs 150, 000. But as the process began, there was a power blackout with no backup generator,” he says.

He adds that the pain he underwent when the power was off forced him to ask the dentist to switch from his desired root canal process to extracting the tooth.

Etima ended up losing a tooth, which he has not afforded to replace. Missing teeth can be replaced by using dental implants, bridges, or by temporary dentures.

Jabo says unfortunately, people visit the dentist when it is too late.

“When people begin to experience tooth pain, they go for painkillers because the pain is intense and one cannot manage with. When the pain is gone, they forget about it, yet the tooth is getting damaged,” he says.

He adds that people need to visit the dentist immediately they notice their teeth cracked or when they are sensitive to hot or cold sensations.

In this case, a root canal is done. If root canal is not done then it goes to the bones and if swellings worsen, it can even lead to death.

Like other areas of the body, your mouth disperses with the bacteria which is mostly harmless.

But it is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these bacteria can cause diseases; so, maintaining oral hygiene should be paramount.

There are other diseases like oral cancer and periodontal (gum disease) that affect oral hygiene.

The other conditions linked to oral health may include pregnancy and birth complications, pneumonia, diabetics.

There is some research that people with gum diseases have a challenge of controlling their blood sugar levels.

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