By Solaade Ayo-Aderele
In general, the mouth houses the teeth and the gums. Whatever goes into your mouth – whether food or, heavens forbid, bacteria — affects your overall health. And that is why experts advise that you take great care of this gateway.
Experts say the best way to remain in health is to understand how your mouth works, and how to keep it in perfect shape.
A Professor of Dentistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Adeyemi Olusile, speaking at the scientific introduction of Pepsodent toothpaste by the Unilever Nigeria Plc, notes that the mouth, just like many areas of the body, teems with bacteria.
Olusile says though normally, the body’s natural defences and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control, without deliberate and proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.
Many people may not know what the saliva in our mouth is capable of achieving when it comes to oral health, but experts say saliva washes away food and neutralises the acidsproduced by bacteria in the mouth. This way, your mouth is shielded from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.
Again, many people are careless with the way they treat their teeth. They may break bones or ice cubes with them, while other use their teeth to pop open bottled drinks. Yet, Olusile says oral health is not just about the mouth, but it is intertwined with the health of the entire body.
The dentist warns that periodontal disease and tooth decay are the most common tooth diseases in the world, though they are quite preventable because they are bacterial in origin. “Eliminate the bacteria and you eliminate the diseases,” Olusile says.
No one can remain in good health without the proper care of the mouth-not when you realise that bacteria that exceed the number of people who live on earth co-habit with the teeth and gums in every mouth!
Scientists say in every mouth, there are about six billion bacteria! They are the major culprit in teeth decay, periodontal disease and offensive mouth breath.
Again, be warned that mouth diseases can lead to, or worsen certain health conditions; and that’s why you can’t toy with your teeth health.
For instance, Community Dentist in the Preventive Dentistry Department, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Oyinkan Sofola, warns that endocarditis (an infection of the inner lining of the heart) can result when bacteria or other germs from another part of the body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in the heart.
The specialist also warns that the inflammation and infections caused by oral bacteria can contribute to incidence of heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
Worse still, gynaecologists say periodontitis (a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports the teeth) has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight; whereas those who live with diabetes may suffer more frequent and severe gum disease, and they may have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels as a result.
Those living with HIV/AIDS are also advised to take their oral health more seriously because oral problems, such as painful mouth ulcers (mucosal lesions), are common in people with this condition. Therefore, they can’t be careless with their oral health.
In addition, those who suffer from osteoporosis – a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle – must avoid mouth infections if they don’t want to suffer bone loss between the two roots of a tooth (periodontal bone loss) and subsequent tooth loss.
Of course, your dietary habit also matters when it comes to maintaining oral health. Olusile says conditions such as malnutrition, deficiency in vitamins A and C and in protein can all affect your teeth health.
And for women, the specialists warn that hormonal disturbances such as puberty, menopause and pregnancy take a toll on teeth health, hence the need to handle your teeth with care.
And if you are a smoker, you have a herculean task ahead, as tobacco smoking and chewing have been known to harm teeth health immensely.
The Brand Manager, Pepsodent, Unilever Nigeria, Mr. George Umoh, says the scientific presentation is an attempt to address specific needs in the oral care sector, with the overall goal of impacting Nigerians’ lifestyle positively.
He says, “There’s no other way to remain in good health than by caring for your mouth. And only good toothpaste will do.”