The mouth is the gateway to the body, a healthy mouth can help you maintain a healthy body. The mouth plays an important role in speech, eating, facial appearance and oral health related quality of life.  In recent years, the awareness of oral health has increased, as researchers have discovered a connection between declining oral health and underlying systemic conditions. Oral bacteria and inflammation may be associated with coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular accidents, premature birth and low birth weight. In Nigeria, the two most common oral diseases are dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal disease (gum disease), with the prevalence of dental caries ranging between 4-30% and gum disease affecting over 90% of the population. These oral diseases are preventable. The burden of untreated oral disease remains high. Some common oral diseases include:

  • Dental caries

Is one of the most common reasons for tooth extractions. They are cavities or holes that form on the teeth from the activity of bacteria on diets rich in refined sugars. When left untreated, dental caries can progress and lead to severe infection and tooth loss.

  • Gum disease

Gum disease, also called gingivitis, is inflammation of the gums. It is usually the result of plaque (tooth deposits) building up on your teeth due to poor brushing and flossing habits. Gingivitis can make your gums swell and bleed when you brush or floss. Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more serious infection that can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

  • Cracked or broken teeth

A tooth can crack or break from an injury to the mouth, chewing hard foods, or grinding the teeth at night. A cracked tooth can be very painful and can become infected and discolored. You should visit your dentist right away if you have cracked or broken a tooth.

  • Sensitive teeth

If your teeth are sensitive, you might feel pain or discomfort after having cold or hot foods or beverages. Tooth sensitivity is also referred to as “dentine hypersensitivity.” It can also be the result of receding gums, gum disease such as receding gums or tooth wear lesions.

  • Oral cancer

Oral cancers include cancer of the gums, tongue, lips, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate. Tobacco use, such as smoking and chewing tobacco, is the biggest risk factor for oral cancer. In general, the earlier that oral cancer is diagnosed, the better the outlook.

How can I protect my oral health?

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene daily.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit food with added sugars.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings at least every six months.
  • Avoid tobacco use in any form.