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Man, Know Thy Teeth ….By Peju Adeniran

Life as a medical student was hard; there were books to read, lecturers to impress, patients to attend to, and a social life to try and fit into the mix.

The perks were therefore few and far between, but I’ll let you in n a little secret; one of the advantages was that as a young doctor, you could get access to free diagnosis, consultation, and even free medication when possible.

It was under one of these of F-O-C arrangements a few years ago, that I had a colleague take a professional look at my teeth.

Like most people, I consider myself to posses a good enough set of teeth; there were no obvious cases of tooth decay, I had not had any tooth pain or bad breath, so I figured I had nothing to worry about.

As I sat draped in the dental chair, I was handed a dental mirror that would allow me take a look at the back and sides of my teeth, I took it confidently and looked in, but to my horror, I discovered something shocking.

At the back and sides of my mouth were unsettling evidence of plaque and tartar that had left dark marks all round on the areas close to the gum line.

I was mightily appalled. “How had I let this happen?” I thought to myself.

Teeth are normally very resistant; they are often preserved even in skeletons and you can tell someone’s diet, even when they have been long dead, just by looking at the state of their teeth.

The top layer, called the enamel is whiter, like milk in primary teeth in children, and darker and stronger by the time the secondary teeth appear in adults. Enamel is very strong and can usually withstand a lot of pressure in order to protect the living tissue it encases.

But, enamel is not foolproof.

It can be worn down by eating too-hard foods for those who chew on hard bone frequently. It can be broken, if you use your teeth to open bottle tops for example or bite into a stone in your food or chip it against a hard object like the floor if you fall.

Enamel is also quickly decalcified (the calcium, which makes it hard, is removed) by acids, and these acids come from the sugars that we eat which are broken down into acid by the normal bacteria in our mouths.

Brushing twice daily, or at least about eight hours apart, or even rinsing the mouth by swishing water around after eating sweets for instance will help to reverse this reaction.

Brush for at least two minutes; recite the alphabet thrice while you brush to help you keep time.

Don’t forget to brush the tongue, in about 20 firm strokes, to remove bacteria.

After three months, your brush is full of the recommended limit of bacteria, and should be replaced.

What about getting the perfect, white smile?

Even though the teeth may look clean and perfect, like I thought mine were, not taking the time to clean the hard-to-reach spots at the back and sides can lead to plaque formation.

Dental Plaque is present in just about everybody’s mouths. If not gotten rid of, plaque will harden to form calculus, which leads to other problems such as gum/periodontal disease, which manifest as bleeding gums and bad breath.

Habits and daily routine such as cigarette smoking, coffee drinking and tea will leave stains on your teeth. Also taking too long between brushing sessions will allow food remnants leave permanent stains on the teeth.

Flossing is easy, and essential. Bits of food stuck between teeth, especially left for a long time can contribute to gum disease and decay.

With the right brushing and flossing technique Dental Plaque may be easily removed.

Calculus and Stains require a visit to your dentist’s office to be professionally cleaned off  nevertheless prevention is always better than cure.

Some long – term medications, like some anti-depressants, could contribute to gum disease; ask your doctor for help if you are taking any of them.

It is important not to ignore any sign or symptom of gum disease, as this can progress to irreversible stages of advanced gum disease (periodontitis).

When you know you have the perfect, healthy teeth smiling comes a whole lot easier!

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