Taking good care of your teeth is a good way to avoid toothaches, expensive trips to the dentist and tooth loss.
But poor oral hygiene, health and care can affect the health of your whole body. For some, it has caused oral cancers and others, bad breath. Sarah Nassozi’s journey through tooth decay is a tale to tell. Over the years, two premolars on her left side of the mouth became brown and their enamels (hard outer layer of the teeth) started chipping off.
Then once, while having dinner, food got stuck in a hole between her teeth, large enough for the tip of her tongue to reach. This was the beginning of her nightmare. Soon, her teeth hurt so bad that it brought her fever.
“I was hospitalized and could not eat anything for three days until my tooth was gouged out,” she recalls.
Nevertheless, the teeth trauma did not end at that. Two years after removing her first tooth as an adult, Nassozi, 26, is back at Mulago hospital’s dental unit, removing yet another decaying tooth. Although tooth decay or cavities are largely preventable, Dr Isaac Okullo, dean of the Makerere University school of Health Sciences, says they remain the most common chronic disease of those who present with tooth problems.
They are commonly among children aged six to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years.
“When sugar sticks onto or between teeth, it holds bacteria which break down foods and produce acid that destroys tooth enamel. This causes tooth decay,” Okullo says.
He advises people not to eat sugary foods in between meals because it is unlikely that one will clean his or her mouth. Snacking should also be limited.
Additionally, excessive intake of soft and energy drinks such as sodas and red bull respectively should be avoided as these contain acids and artificial sugars which are harmful to the teeth.
Preventing gum disease
Associated with the sugar and bacteria action on teeth, is gum disease. It occurs when the gums holding the teeth are affected by dental plaque: a colorless substance that sticks on the teeth which will hold bacteria and sugars to the teeth. Dr Okullo says if this plaque is left unchecked, it causes redness and inflammation of the gums. As a result of this irritation, the gums can begin to pull away from the teeth and the gaps which have been created become infected.
“If gum disease is not treated quickly, the bone which supports the teeth can be destroyed and teeth can be lost. Gum disease is a major factor in tooth loss as we age,” says Okullo.
Also, some teeth end up being held by the gum around them which means that a small force and take the tooth out. Dr Louis Muwazi, a dental surgeon at Makerere University, says one is at risk of gum disease if he or she is a smoker, has diabetes, crooked teeth as they are harder to clean.
Muwazi says important signs and symptoms for one to look out for in regard to gum disease include gums that are red and tender, gums that have pulled away from your teeth, pus coming from between your teeth and gums and teeth which look longer than before, because of gum recession.
To avoid gum disease, Dr Muwazi advises people to brush their teeth at least twice a day (morning and when going to bed) using fluoride toothpaste in order to remove plaque. If the plaque is not eliminated, it can continue to build up, which will then feed on the food fragments left behind and can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
However, ‘over-brushing’ the teeth may cause gums to bleed.
“It is vital to change your toothbrush every two to three months or sooner if the filaments become worn. When the bristles become weak, they no longer clean properly and may even damage your gums,” Dr Muwazi notes.
Dental visits every six months are recommended for oral examinations and professional cleaning of teeth. Mulago hospital’s dental unit charges Shs 20,000 for teeth cleaning.
Source: all africa