A Consultant Dental Public Health Specialist, Dr Aderonke Dedeke, has advised Nigerians to use toothpastes that contain fluoride and medium-textured toothbrushes to prevent tooth decay.
Dedeke, who works at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Ibadan.
She urged people to always brush twice a day – last thing in the night and after breakfast.
The dental health specialist also advised Nigerians to always eat healthy food and visit the dentists every six months for routine check-up, adding “it is often better to prevent dental cavities ab initio.”
She said that there could be clinical treatment of the caries, depending on the disease stage, adding that the very early stage of whitish lesion was reversible.
According to her, application of fluoride by the dentist is important as well as good oral cleaning habits.
“Small cavities that are not symptomatic may be placed under observation and patients given instructions of ensuring a proper diet and oral hygiene methods or may need filling, depending on the size.
“Symptomatic cavities can be treated in a number of ways, again depending on the progression of the disease state, which is determined clinically by the dentist and via use of radiographs (x-rays) of the tooth/teeth in question.
“These include filling, root canal therapy and extraction, as a last resort (if the tooth cannot be saved),” she said.
Another Dental Public Health Specialist at UCH, Dr Francis Fagbule, said tooth decay or hole in the tooth in everyday parlance was a disease state caused by interplay of four major factors.
The factors, according to Fagbule, are: oral bacteria/germs, refined sugar, susceptible tooth surface and time, adding that it did not always start as a cavity or hole but ended up as one, if untreated.
“Everyone has bacteria/germs in his/her mouth but certain types are major causes of tooth decay.
“This bacteria ‘loves’ refined sugar, which is found in some foods like soda, confectionery, ice cream, cake, sweets, candies, chocolate and beverages, while it acts on the sugar and breaks it down into acid.
“The acid causes dissolution of the outer layer of the tooth, which, if left unchecked over a period of time (the fourth factor), may eventually form a cavity,” Fagbule said.
The dental public health specialist remarked that there might be no visible detectable signs/symptoms on the tooth during the early stages of tooth decay.
He noted that one might just notice a whitish lesion on the tooth surface.
“At this stage, the process can still be reversed if the person commences proper tooth cleaning with fluoride-containing toothpastes and engages in other appropriate oral hygiene habits.
“However, if nothing is done, the destruction of the tooth surface will continue, leading to the weakening and breakdown of the outermost layer (enamel) of the tooth.
“With this breakdown comes possible sensitivity (sharp pain to hot or cold fluids/food), and if left untreated, the cavity becomes deeper and bigger, with spontaneous pain.
“At this point, the person tends to avoid chewing from the affected side of the mouth due to the fear of food particles getting stuck in the cavity/hole and causing pain,” he said.
Fagbule further noted that if still left untreated, the infection could progress into the root of the affected tooth and eventually progress into the jaw bone.
According to him, the infection can cause swelling of the face/jaw around the affected tooth, with associated pus formation.
“This may eventually lead to the death of the person, particularly if such an individual has underlying problems, such as uncontrolled diabetes mellitus whereby the immunity is weak and cannot resist the infection.
“Also, the swelling may become too big, such that it presses against the airway, thus compromising the person’s breathing,” Fagbule said.