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Are you taking care of your teeth?

EwellAfrica talked to Moyo Ajaja DDS, a dentist practicing in America about caring for our teeth.

Please tell us about yourself?
I am Christian and believe the human body is sacred and that neglecting our health is akin to desecrating a holy place. I fill many roles, I am a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and a dentist. I am passionate about living a full life, using all my talents and encouraging all those around me to dream bigger!

A lot of people don’t consider dental health important until they have pain, can you give us a brief overview about dental health? Why are dental check-ups important?
The condition of the mouth is an indicator of a person’s overall wellbeing. Periodic (at least every 6 months) dental check-ups are important to protect, preserve, and restore oral health with early intervention in a disease process. Usually a dental check-up entails radiographic imaging, professional cleaning and examination of the teeth, gums, cheeks, palate, head, and neck. This exam includes the lymph nodes, muscles, joints and bones. From the state of a patient’s mouth a dentist can tell if that patient smokes, chews tobacco, uses recreational drugs, has uncontrolled diabetes, leukemia, or a compromised immune system.

How early should we start having check ups?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentist recommends dental visits start as soon as a baby’s first tooth shows up and no later than the first birthday. Usually these appointments are to introduce the child and family to the dental environment (children this young are usually seen by a pediatric dentist) and provide the parents with milestones to expect with the child’s teeth and the way the child’s jaws fit together. Another purpose of these early visit is to educate parents on how to care for the teeth, diet, and what to do if the child has an injury to the mouth/jaw areas.
Does every dental check up include oral cancer screening or should we be asking our dentist about it? – Yes, every dental exam includes a visual oral cancer screening. You may ask your dentist about the findings. If there are any signs of abnormal tissue additional testing is usually the first step and the dentist will discuss those options with you when necessary.

What is the best way to clean our teeth?
Brush and floss! This is the best way to remove the bacteria layer (plaque) that accumulates on the gums and teeth. Brushing cleans about 80% of the tooth and gums and flossing cleans the remaining 20% surfaces that the brush bristles cannot reach. I recommend that patients use a soft bristled brush morning and before bedtime for at least 2 minutes and floss before bedtime. Most people underestimate the 2 minutes therefore I recommend using a timer or if you listen to the radio then brush for the length of a song.

How often should we change our toothbrushes?
Every 3-4months or as soon as the brush bristle start to fray. Remember that soft bristles are the gentlest on the gums. A medium or firm bristled brush can cause the gums to recessed and also damage the surface of teeth.

Toothbrushes/chewing stick? Can you compare and contrast the two?
The toothbrush is a relatively modern invention while chewing sticks have been used in many cultures for centuries. Some religions even promote the use of chewing sticks. Both of these instruments are useful for the mechanical removal of plaque from teeth and gums. Some studies have shown that when used properly, chewing twigs, stems, or root can be as effective as using a toothbrush because it cleans the surfaces of the oral cavity and increases saliva flow. Additional studies also indicate an antimicrobial agent in the plants chewed may reduce the bacteria known to cause dental decay and gum disease. The World Health Organization also recognizes chewing sticks as a valid instrument to maintain good oral hygiene. I want to emphasize that whatever method used to keep the mouth clean the key is to do this frequently, at least twice a day, clean in-between teeth with floss or similar interdental cleaner, and limit frequency of dietary exposures.

What is Gum disease?
Also called periodontal disease is an infection of the tooth supporting structures (gums and bones).
What are warning signs of gum disease? – The initial signs of periodontal disease is bleeding, swollen and red gums. This initial stage, called Gingivitis, is completely reversible with dental treatment and good home care practices. Without treatment gingivitis can progress to infect the jaw bones (Periodontitis) and cause bone loss. Tooth loss occurs once there is inadequate support from the gums and adjacent bones.

What can we do if we can’t afford dental treatment, are there options?
Yes there are many options. Start by dialing “2-1-1” a toll-free telephone service that connects people with local community organizations and government agencies. They will guide you through the resources available in your area.

What causes bad breath? How can it be treated?
Halitosis (bad breath) can originate from several areas. The lungs – a diet of onions and garlic can cause bad breath once digested and absorbed into the bloodstream some of its byproducts are expelled via the lungs. The mouth – inadequate hygiene or salivary flow allows bacteria to flourish and aids the decomposition of food particles. The rest of the body – a disorder elsewhere in the body such as respiratory infections, diabetes, gastrointestinal, kidney, or liver disease. Treatment is targeted at the cause of the bad breath dietary changes where necessary, dental treatment and good oral hygiene, and medical intervention if a systemic disorder is suspected. Alcohol and tobacco use also exacerbates halitosis.

What if anything is a key take home point you would like to leave us with?
Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, floss daily and schedule your next dental appointment today!

About Ekene Onu

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