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Health: Care of the teeth

Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

Many people in this part of the world do not give a hoot about the routine care that their teeth deserve not to mention the overall care of the mouth. However, what many should recognise is that the appearance of the teeth and the absence of any unpleasant smells from the mouth are important attributes of a healthy personality. That appearance is not any different or less important than any other aspect of health which we have treated on this page over the past two years. It is that realisation that has prompted this essay this week. Here then are some of the most important aspects of that kind of care that should be considered.

The development of plaques is the most common dental problem to afflict the majority of people. Plaques develop within some thirty minutes of eating a meal. The bacteria that inhabit the mouth soon move in to degrade and alter the composition of the food particles that are left behind in the mouth soon after eating, turning them into the early building blocks for the hard tables of substance that are laid over the teeth. As a result of this realisation, no one should eat a meal without rinsing the mouth copiously with water afterwards. This helps a lot to deal with the initial material that is laid down on them. The immediate cleaning of the mouth should be a deliberate process, not to be hurried at all because it is so important. As for those people whose dental arrangement is the sort that leaves them with gaps between the teeth which trap food particles and meat, for example, they should deploy the use of tooth-picks to get rid of the nuisance.

Sometimes, even the use of this instrument is not enough to do this and other means have to be employed. Some people, if they are still at home, would employ their tooth-brushes to deal with this. Occasionally, this also fails thus promoting the usage of some more desperate measures that could even harm the gums. Some people would use pins. Others would use strings of cotton, such as twines, deployed like pulleys that are pulled across the gap to dislodge the offending piece of food. The well-healed in the society would use a dental floss for this nuisance. This should not be their preserve, however, because dental floss is cheap and very available. With immense surprise, I have found that not many people have even heard about them, not to mention use them. The dental floss is a plastic hook with a cotton cord linking its two closest arms in a way that resembles a guitar. The plastic end can always be deployed to into corners to remove food particles, while the string can be placed between teeth in even closely apposed teeth to get rid of those materials. It is a good habit to use the dental floss once a day, and to do so especially before brushing the teeth in the mornings so that the fluoride in the toothpaste is able to reach the deep recesses between the teeth.

The brushing of the teeth is another good habit which should be done twice a day ideally. It is properly done with up and down strokes, rather than across the teeth, and should be done for at least two or three minutes to ensure proper cleaning. The tongue and the roof of the mouth should also be brushed to ensure complete all-round cleaning. A combination of these techniques with the employment of the dental floss and the habit of rinsing the mouth properly following every meal are vital steps you can take to ensure proper oral hygiene. The other aspect of this kind of care is to ensure regular check-up with the dentist at least once in every six months. This can assist very much in detecting problems with the teeth quite early so that preventive steps can be taken to arrest further deterioration. Some of these common problems are generally called dental caries.

Dental caries refer to permanently damaged parts of the teeth that develop into holes in the enamel, the hard outermost surface of the teeth. This is also known as tooth decay and can occur in nearly everyone who has got teeth. Therefore, it is something to be seen in most often in children and young adults. These cavities are of several types;

—the pit and fissure cavities which are the most common of all, develop on the rough surface at the uppermost aspect of the tooth. That is the area used for chewing and grinding.

—smooth surface cavities are those which develop on the sides of the teeth and are often seen in young children.

—root cavities are those which appear in the root of the teeth and develop below the gum line.

As a result of these distinctive areas of damage, a range of symptoms can develop with each one plaguing the sufferer in different ways. These symptoms depend, ultimately, on the sort of cavity that develops and the eventual size. Some of these are;

1)       Toothache: this is a symptom many people have described as dementing. It is often worse at night and after a meal.

2)       Pain: this symptom occurs most often while chewing. Therefore, biting down on a food particle is sure to bring the pain about.

3)       Obvious holes seen on the affected teeth or the appearance of a black spot on any of them is often indicative of a problem below.

4)       An abnormal sensation when something hot or cold is consumed. This is also true of food items that are sweet. The sensation is particularly unpleasant and defies description.

These are problems which regular visits to the dentist can help prevent or deal with early on. When those visits have not taken place and any of the symptoms described above are experienced, it is time to visit one. In most cases, the cavity develops silently, without any symptoms at the early stage and will only be uncovered with regular examination.

The main cause of dental caries is the decay of the affected tooth. The hard surface, called the enamel, gets damaged over time. This results from the frequent use of hard toothbrushes, from the activity of bacteria on the teeth as talked about early on in this essay and the persistence of food particles on the teeth and gums. Also, naturally occurring acids within the mouth further act on the existing plaques to erode the enamel layer. When this is done, the enamel soon gives way to the softer dentine layer, which has much less resistance to damage and wear. This soon gives way to the pulp of the tooth where the blood vessels and nerves are located. When the nerves are involved, pain often follows. When the blood vessels become involved, infection and more rapid tooth decay follows. There may be pus being produced subsequently with a hideous smell as well. There would also be undue swelling and gum irritation. The use of antibiotics and pain relievers will then have to be deployed before any definitive further treatment can be undertaken.

As the face is the mirror to the soul of an individual, so is the mouth a window to the overall health status of a person. Poor dental hygiene is often linked very strongly with the likelihood of potential heart disease. As a result of this insight, many must know that if they take good care of their teeth, the subtle gain could be a beneficial effect on your heart. So it could be said that the state of your teeth is a mirror into your inner health. Digest these tips please and live a healthier, more productive life. The care of the mouth is very important.

Ask the doctor

Dear doctor, I am infested with worms. I have taken many worm expellers only for the worm to hide and resurface later. What do you advice sir?   080745xxxxx

That is something which only proper stool analysis in a laboratory can unravel. You do need to see a doctor for the proper examination to be requested. The results obtained will tell us what kind of worms is infesting your body. That also will tell us the best worm expeller to use. These worms have their individual differences and so you must also use the relevant worm expeller with expert advice. You will not gain anything by trying to treat yourself.

Dear doctor, apart from HIV, how long can it take for other sexually transmitted diseases to start manifesting in males? 070611xxxxx

Sexually transmitted diseases are so many, at least twenty of them, but I will restrict myself to the most common ones.

1) Gonorrhoea: 10 days.

2) Syphyllis: 10 days to three months.

3) Non-gonococcal urethritis: one to three weeks.

4) Chlamydia: one to three weeks.

5) Trichomoniasis: five to 28 days.

6) Genital herpes: several weeks.

7) Human papilloma virus infection and genital warts: several weeks to three months.

8) Hepatitis: 60 to 90 days.

Dear doctor, I have a bad tooth and I have always had a phobia about removing it. But I think the time is right now. Can you please recommend a good and affordable dental clinic that can remove the affected tooth? Thank you, sir. 081529xxxxx

Depending on where you live, any public hospital in your town that has a dental department should be able to offer you that service. If you are in Lagos, you can go to Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba or Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja or General Hospital, Marina or Randle General Hospital in Surulere. There are excellent dental services available in any of those centres. The cost in any of those places is partly paid for by the relevant government and should therefore be affordable to you. If you are not in Lagos, however, you can go to any similar hospital in your town.

Dear doctor, there is some biting sensation in my private part and boils which come and go whether treated or not. Sometimes, after urinating, some yellow substance remains on my penis. I have done tests for various sexually transmitted diseases and toilet infection but all results have been negative. What other test is needed?   081582xxxxx

The solution to that is simple; go to a hospital and see a urologist or an infectious disease expert or a Dermatologist. They will recommend the appropriate tests for you to undertake and the result should be obvious. With regards to your complaint, I do not believe that all the tests you have done have been negative. It is either you have not done the appropriate investigations or have not been to the right laboratory. That is all the more reason for you to go to an expert.

Dear doctor, I am 30 years old. When is the right time to have my eggs fertilised? My menses is sometimes irregular and I want that to be regular as well. What drugs do I take? Meanwhile, I have been tested negative of all kinds of infections and bacteria. Please treat urgently!  080324xxxxx

The easiest thing you can do about this is to have a special link of scan called folliculometry which is a means of tracking your follicles through maturity and up till the time they are released. The date thus known become the period when you are most likely to be fertile. For those women who have regular cycles, the fertile period tends to be around the middle of the cycle. For those like yourself who have irregular cycles, you need to see a doctor who will calculate with you when in your cycle to have this scan done so that you can get the required information.

Dear doctor, is it every cancer that kills? Recently, I saw a five-year-old girl die from cancer. The parents are beside themselves with grief because she was their only child. I ask this question because when the diagnosis was first made, they were assured that it could be treated. So what do you think happened? Anonymous

Not every cancer kills. But between the ones which kill and those ones which do not, there are so many other things which happen that doctors and scientists simply do not know enough about. So we ask all patients to report early to hospital, to undergo the required treatment while seeking divine assistance rather the other way round and to hope for the best possible outcome. No doctor is able to give guarantees of cure when dealing with cancer. Thank you for sharing this sad story.

Dear doctor, my husband was diagnosed of azoospermia. Do we have any hope of having a child? And what treatment is available. Waiting patiently for your reply. Thank you.  [email protected]

Treatment is possible depending on the cause of the azoospermia. In the pursuit of that cause, it is often necessary to have a testicular biopsy, a minor surgical procedure, done in order to identify the cause. Where the cause is beyond treatment, other options you have will depend on the resources available to you and the mind set you have with regards to assisted reproduction techniques using donor sperm.


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