Oral health means more than good teeth; it is integral to general health and essential for a person’s overall well-being. To mark the occasion of World Oral Health Day 2010, Aga Khan University (AKU) organised an event to highlight the importance of preventing mouth diseases through healthy oral practices.
According to the World Health Organization, oral diseases alone prevent children and adults from attending school or work, causing millions of hours to be lost each year. The most common oral diseases worldwide are dental cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. An estimated 60 to 90 per cent of school-going children around the globe have cavities, while tooth loss seen to affect 1 in 4 of the adult population. For the elderly, poor oral health affects eating abilities, which then influences the food eaten and general health.
“Teeth are a very essential part of the human body and are vital for everything from chewing and speaking to an individual’s overall aesthetics,” said Dr Faisal Qayyum, Consultant Prosthodontist, Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), speaking at the event. Once teeth are lost, the spaces created can adversely affect a person’s overall appearance and oral functions. Today, thanks to prosrthodontic advancements such as dentures, bridges and implants, many such complications can be avoided. “Even then, oral hygiene is still very important and should be practised daily,” said Dr Qayyum.
Focussing on common oral health problems faced by people, particularly in Pakistan, Dr Robia Ghafoor, Consultant Operative Dentistry, AKUH said, “Widespread problems like bad breathe, tooth decay, dental cavities and bleeding gums are not inevitable, but are to a large extent influenced by environmental, social and lifestyle-related factors.” Dental decay or cavities affects a major part of the population and is the single most important cause of loss of teeth, she said. “Most people ignore dental caries till it reaches the inner pulp tissue of the tooth, infecting the tooth and the underlying bone,” she said, adding, “this is when root canal treatment helps in saving such teeth and restoring the dental health of the patient.”
Speaking about gum disease which is also one of the main causes of tooth loss among adults, Dr Robia stressed on how brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar, can make a considerable difference. “Regular dental check-ups are also essential in preventing dental problems,” she said while highlighting the importance of educating the public about dental problems and their causes, which can assist in preventing oral complications.
Focussing on the aesthetic value of teeth, Dr Attiya Shaikh, Consultant Orthodontist, AKUH, drew attention to how an attractive smile is a wonderful asset. “It contributes to self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive self-image, which are important qualities at every age,” she said, maintaining that a person’s self-esteem is often elevated as orthodontic treatment brings teeth, lips and face into proportion. “From a broader perspective, orthodontic treatment can benefit social and career success, as well as improve a person’s general attitude towards life. This is the reason it is getting more and more popular and becoming a need of the day,” said Dr Attiya.