Fighting oral diseases

Latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that 60 - 90 percent of school children and nearly all adults have dental cavities.

Latest statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that 60 – 90 percent of school children and nearly all adults have dental cavities. 

The report further points out that severe gum disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15 – 20 percent of middle-aged adults who are between 35 - 44 years old.

The most scary situation of all is that about three in every 10 people aged 65 – 74 have no natural teeth. Yet oral disease in children and adults is higher among poor and disadvantaged population groups.

The Rwandan government has done a lot in ensuring access of oral health care services by citizens, and has made it possible by rolling out health insurance coverage to over 75 percent of the population.

Every public hospital country wide has an oral health department, a dental therapist, and a total of about 30 dental surgeons. A five-year National Strategic Plan is also in offing that will see every public hospital get at least one dental surgeon.

Government commitment towards fostering oral health among the population was also evidenced when it summoned and organised an International Oral Health Conference, the first of its kind, with the aim of sharing scientific knowledge, skills and experience, in March last year. The two-day conference attracted oral health experts and other professionals from countries like DR Congo, Belgium, Kenya, Tanzania, France, United Kingdom, Holland, Egypt, South Africa, among others.

Though the government has done much in promoting oral health, oral diseases are still high in the country as a result poor oral hygiene. For instance the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) alone receives at least 50 people daily consulting for oral issues, according to official figures.

Risk factors for oral diseases include an unhealthy diet, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use and poor oral hygiene, and social determinants.

And this means that if the prevalence is to ever get contained, a lot has to be done on individual basis. For instance one has to brush at least two times a day thoroughly. And not only teeth, but tongue, roof of mouth, and gums.

From the time we are children, we are taught that it is very important to brush our teeth, but not all seem to understand the dangers of not brushing teeth regularly.

Yet apart from having whiter teeth and fresher breath, many people do not realise why it is important to brush their teeth regularly and thoroughly.

Oral health experts say that brushing ones teeth also has a number of indirect and unexpected benefits that they may not have considered. For one thing, cleaning teeth regularly saves money otherwise spent on dentists.

When you care for your teeth properly you are less likely to need dental work down the road such as having a cavity filled, having treatments for gum disease or tooth extraction.

It’s also no longer news that brushing reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth and removes the sugars that are food for the bacteria, reducing the possibility that the bacteria will multiply to dangerous levels.

Having a clean mouth is not only important health wise, but also helps in boosting self esteem, experts say. The good news also is that modern dental technology has reached a point where saving a tooth is very possible, no matter it’s condition.

Dentists also advise use of a dental floss (a cord of thin filaments used to remove food and dental plaque from between teeth. The floss is gently inserted between the teeth and wiped along the teeth sides, especially close to the gums or underneath them) at least once a day, preferably at bedtime.

Oral health experts also call for limited intake of sugary foods, as otherwise this would increase breeding of bacteria that causes tooth decay. They encourage eating a balanced diet high in organic vegetables, and fruits best for keeping the oral cavity healthy.

Keep regular (at least once every three months) dental check up appointments. This is the best way to recognize and treat disease in the mouth before it turns into advanced stages such as root canals or tooth loss.