As part of activities to celebrate this year’s World Oral Health Day, the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Yaba (NARHY), Lagos, embarked on a walk on Wednesday, which was targeted to create awareness about good oral health.
The participants wearing white T-shirts and wine-coloured cap started from the Physiotherapy field of the hospital through Jibowu, Tejuosho market, Herbert Macaulay to Myhoung Barracks and terminated at the Physiotherapy field of the hospital, distributing leaflets designed to educate and inform the general public about the relationship between oral health and general well-being. Findings show that many Nigerians have lost their lives to preventable oral health related diseases due to ignorance. The World Oral Health Day is celebrated throughout the world on March 20, each year with a wide range of awareness-raising activities organized by dentists, dental students, the National Dental Associations (NDAs) and corporate partners to create awareness about the importance of good oral health.
The theme of this year’s event is: ‘Smile for Life,’ and is directed to remind people everywhere about the importance of looking after their teeth and gums. Commenting on the march among other activities lined up to mark the event by the 68 Nigerian Army Reference Hospital, Maj. Gen. Patrick Adebayo Falola; Commander 68 NARHY identified ignorance, poor awareness as bane of the country’s oral healthcare. Falola said: “The road show is part of the weeklong activities to sensitise our neighbourhood; we will also providing free dental check-up and a symposium on Friday where all issues concerning oral health will be discussed.” According to him, physical exercise is an integral part of the programme as it promotes good health. Good oral health prevents tooth decay as well as mouth odour which if not prevented, could lead to a negative impact on the general health and well being of an individual.
Lt. (Dr.) Mrs. Blessing Isoken George, Consultant, Oral and Maxillofacial as well as Head of the Dental Department, said oral health as an integral part of general health includes optimal functioning of the mouth and its tissues in a manner which preserves self esteem and enables an individual to contribute meaningfully to the society. George who stressed the need for Nigeria to develop sustainable strategies for national preventive and therapeutic oral health services to cope with the magnitude of oral health challenges in the country called on the government to invest more in oral health. She affirmed that based on available oral health surveys in the country, Nigeria has a serious oral health challenge especially with the problem of periodontal disease and dental caries (tooth decay). During an Oral Health Promotion Exercise held at the physiotherapy field of the hospital, the Consultant explained that the free dental screening was necessitated by the shocking discovery of the number of deaths caused by oral health related problems in the country.
“Nigerians die in their numbers due to oral health related problems. This is because many Nigerians don’t take adequate care of their mouths. However, these diseases are treatable if detect on time,” she lamented.
NARHY Dental Department boss further urged the people to always brush their mouths twice daily to remove dirt in the mouth and abstain from eating what he called in-between foods such as soft drinks, chocolates and peppermint, among others. According to her, taking such sugary foods regularly will increase the tendency of developing oral health problem. Parents should educate their children on how to attain and maintain good oral health and the benefits of brushing at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpastes. Also, George, who pointed that the mouth is the gateway to the body, added that many people are unaware of what it takes to ensure oral health and this necessitated the march and other programmes by NARHY to sensitise the people oral health.
She said: “When there is a problem with the mouth, it means the whole body system has a problem. This is because if a man who cannot eat within a few days, it will begin to show on him. So the state of health of the oral cavity and the surrounding tissues, not just the mouth and teeth is critical. “We have found out that the awareness of oral health is very poor. You are supposed to go for check twice a year. But you only see patients when there is problem and they present themselves late. We need to educate the people so there is need for oral education. So you need to visit your dentist; many people who have oral problem often report late to the hospital. If oral health problems are detected on time, it stops further health complications and casualties,” she added. “I am an Oral and Maxillofacial (OMF) Surgeon and specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the mouth, jaws, face and neck. So one needs to be mindful and ensure that what goes into the mouth is healthy,” the consultant said. In the views of Lt. Col. Akinyele Adetoun Akande, Principal Dental Technologist, 68 NARHY, tooth decay can be effectively prevented when people develop the right attitude to good oral health and also become careful about the type of foods they consume.
Also, Akande, who pointed that the mouth is the gateway to the body insisted that it is important to ensure that what goes into the mouth is healthy. Corroborating earlier views, she said: “There is need for oral education and encourage people to visit the dentist; many who have oral problem report late to the hospital. It is important to detect oral health problems on time for effective treatment.” The Principal Dental Technologist urged Nigerians to embrace good oral hygiene and also wash their tongues thoroughly whenever they brush their teeth as coated tongues result in mouth odour. Lt. Mpapamieari Datonye West, Chief Dental Therapist, commenting said that brushing twice daily was a cost effective strategy to battling tooth decay.
According to West, debris from sugary foods often hides in the gums and if not removed via brushing, can clog the teeth and gums, leading to dental decay. Dr. Nagboya Mana, Chief Dental Surgeon 68 NARHY, further explained that the mouth normally has bacteria which work on refined sugar to produce a dilute acid, which results in dissolution of hard tooth tissue. Each time there is increase in high-refined sugar, it retains as substrate at different corners in our mouth and then the bacteria in our mouth feeds on them to cause havoc. Sometimes, it also results in swollen gum, which bleeds each time you touch it, she said. She noted that tooth decay could degenerate and lead to form abscess in the gums in serious cases.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on March 21, 2015.