Oral health is perhaps the most ignored aspect of the mother topic: health. I mean, who cares about a couple of bleeding gums and the occasional painful tooth when people are dying of cervical cancer in their tens of thousands, right? So as long as there’s no mouth odour (for the more conscious populace that care about such trivialities) and it’s not causing painful sleepless nights then it can be ignored; and more attention paid to the rising blood pressure and sugar level. this is how most folks think, even the enlightened ones.
The truth is, oral health is a very important aspect of health. Its importance can really not be overestimated. It’s quite as important as your rising blood pressure and sugar levels. Its problems can be quite as scary as that impending heart attack you worry about every time you bite into that succulent, cholesterol rich slab of beef 6 hours after your bathroom weighing scale tells you you’re overweight. You really should pay as much attention to it as the time you spend on your treadmill, or your cardio regimen, or that expensive annual full body check-up.
Why Bother So Much About My Oral Hygiene?
Why? you may wonder. Well, for one there is that latent potential for indescribably excruciating pain. Pain so severe it makes grown men cry. Pain only comparable to that of childbirth. I’ve had mothers come into the clinic after classic episodes of toothache and claim that childbirth probably wasn’t as painful after the first. You may be lucky to never have experienced this before, good for you. The problem is it’s never too late for the dental problems that can cause this genre of pain to develop. All you have to do in many cases is slip up on your oral hygiene while certain factors are present in your mouth for long enough.
Toothache, I can almost hear some folks say, is easy to deal with. Just visit a dentist when you have pain and he’ll sort you out and you’ll be fine afterwards. Sadly, it doesn’t always end there. Dental issues may in fact not cause any serious oral pain but still cause even more severe general health problems. Studies have shown that poor oral hygiene has been linked to severe cardiac conditions, complications of diabetes and even low birth weight while in pregnant women. So your oral health does play a vital role in the general well being of the body.
Tenets of Oral Hygiene
We have all at some point come across the aspects of oral hygiene and definitely practice some of them. I’m pretty sure we all brush in the morning; bear in mind though that brushing last thing at night is just as important as the morning round.
It’s of course unreasonable to say you should not have your regular helping of gourmet chocolate or that particular tangy flavour of Haribo but you should remember to brush afterwards, especially before bed, to make sure none of it is left on your teeth to start the process of tooth decay.
Tooth brushing technique matters for effectiveness. Vertical strokes (away) from the gums to the edge of the teeth with the mouth slightly open and each arch separately cleaned has been shown to be the most effective method. Horizontal brushing is really not as effective and may damage the teeth at the neck, especially when combined with hard toothbrushes. Hard brushes can damage your teeth, medium consistency is safest.
Flossing should be done instead of using a toothpick to remove left over foods hanging between the teeth. This is because tooth picking has a very high potential for damaging the supportive structures of the teeth (the gums, the periodontal ligaments and the bone holding the tooth) and causing or aggravating the development of artificial pockets. These pockets then easily harbour more remnant foods and, in consequence, more bacteria which further increases the damage in the area. Pocketing is essentially a vicious cycle that easily gets worse, especially with constant tooth picking thrown in the mix.
When Should I Visit the Dentist?
The hardest part of taking care of your teeth and mouth is perhaps that regular scheduled visit to the dentist. You are supposed to visit your dentist for a check-up and routine scaling and polishing (professional wash) every six months. But of course most folks won’t go unless their night’s sleep or at least their comfort depends on it.
You should visit the dentist so that freshly emerging dental conditions that can evolve and cause serious issues later can be detected early and treated before getting out of hand. The mouth also always feels and looks great after a professional wash. Imagine taking your valued BMW to a proper car wash after your gate man has been doing the best he can with the washing every day for six months. There’s definitely going to be a difference.
Other people won’t routinely visit the dentist because of variations of that primitive emotion called fear. Fear of the dentist and his cold, uncomfortable, scary looking metal instruments. Fear of catching some disease because of improper sterilization techniques. Fear of the potential for more pain.
Honestly, most of these fears are unfounded. You cannot catch anything if proper sterilization procedures are followed and you have a right to ask to see the sterilization autoclave and procedure if you want. And most dental procedures are not painful (or at least the pain factor, if present, can be controlled and limited) if done by a skilled and patient dentist.
What Do I look For in a Good Dentist/Dental Center?
Quacks do exist out there but a learned person will do his/her research and may be able to spot a so-called “dentist” that really isn’t one. In fact, with the monitoring and licensing procedures in place now the problem isn’t really quackery but rather lack of proper equipment and motivation in many dental centers.
A good dental center will be adequately equipped with a modern chair that has all the necessary options. It should also have the following:
–An intra-oral camera is not a necessity but a good add-on so that pictures of the trouble areas in the teeth/mouth can be taken and the patient can see on a wide screen.
–An X-ray machine is important for proper diagnosis and for exactness in certain procedures.
–An autocalve for sterilization is a must and cannot be compromised upon. Autoclaving is the most thorough form of sterilization, other methods may not always cut it.
Generally, a good dentist will always try and make procedures as comfortable and painless as possible and in the cases that it is not feasible, he/she will tell you what to expect but still try as much as possible to put you at ease. You have a right to know what is being done to you so always ask questions; a good dentist will be patient and answer your questions in simple terms that you can understand before proceeding.
I do hope we will start paying more attention to our oral hygiene and oral health after reading this piece. It is very important in judging a wholly healthy individual. If you’ve got questions please mail them to [email protected]. I’ll be back!
Dr. Timi is a dentist and runs his own private practice (Blanche Dental Clinic, Suite K182, Road 5, Ikota shopping complex, VGC, Lekki, Lagos). He has been known to treat a steady flow of celebrities and prominent people in entertainment, hence the moniker “The Celebrity Dentist”. He was also a popular recording artiste with Tryberecords and still produces music as a hobby whenever he can. Reach him on twitter @DoctorTimi