Oral health means more than just good teeth; it is integral to general health and essential for a person’s overall well-being. Aga Khan University held a seminar on September 12, 2011, World Oral Health Day, to highlight the importance of healthy oral practices and dental treatments.
Oral diseases such as tooth decay affect approximately 90 per cent of the world’s population. The most common oral diseases worldwide are dental cavities and gum disease and to avoid them proper care of teeth should start at an early age stressed Dr Robia Ghafoor, Consultant Operative Dentistry, AKUH. Even prior to the ‘eruption’ of child’s first tooth, parents should wipe his/her mouth and gums with a clean damp cloth or gauze pad to avoid oral diseases in the future. Brushing should start when the first primary tooth begins to appear, that is, at approximately six months, this will help reduce harmful bacteria. Children are recommended to start flossing when they are about 3-4 years old.
Another condition called ‘baby bottle tooth decay’, which occurs when milk, sugar, or any liquid containing sugar is left in the mouth for extended periods of time, can be prevented by giving the child plain water at bedtime. Another way of preventing tooth decay is through the use of fluoride and sealants. Fluoride makes teeth stronger, prevents dental cavities, and re-mineralises weak areas of the teeth.
Teeth play a pivotal role in the overall appearance of a person. In order to assure a beautiful and healthy smile, teeth should be properly aligned. However, not everybody is born with a perfect set of teeth; some people have spaces between them, while others might have crooked teeth. Braces or other appliances such as functional or removable appliances, for example, twin block, are used in such cases. This comes under the realm of orthodontic treatment, the use of these appliances gradually move the teeth or jaws into their correct positions. Dr Mubassar Fida, Consultant Orthodontist, AKUH, said that by placing a constant, gentle force in a carefully controlled direction, braces and other orthodontic appliances can slowly move teeth through their supporting bone to new positions. He pointed out that many of today’s braces such as ‘invisible braces’ –known as such as they are made of ceramic material which is least visible to the naked eye – are far less noticeable than the metal braces that used in the past, making braces more popular.
Oral health affects the overall perception of a person’s physical attractiveness, said Dr Faisal Qayyum, Consultant Prosthodontist, AKUH. He further added that healthy teeth also carry out essential functions such as chewing and facilitating speech. But once teeth are lost, spaces are created which affect the individual’s overall appearance as well as these functions. Teeth can be absent as a result of accidents/trauma, caries and periodontal breakdown. The treatment can be either fixed or removable prosthesis. Removable prosthesis includes complete dentures when all the teeth are missing or partial dentures when few teeth are missing. Fixed prosthesis can be given either by taking support from adjacent teeth like making a bridge or taking support from underlying bone like implants, he added.
Sometimes a nerve inside the tooth could become irreversibly damaged or infected said Dr Farhan Raza Khan, Consultant Operative and Restorative Dental Surgeon, AKUH; in such cases, root canal treatment is used. He explained that it is a dental procedure performed under local anaesthesia that involves the removal of that nerve. The procedure conserves the natural tooth. Following root canal therapy, the treated tooth is fully restored with a crown. Root canals are painless, faster, and more accurate due to modern technology, he added.
The overall success rate is 95 per cent. Only 5 per cent cases can be attributed to leakage from the top part of the tooth, typically due to decay or loss of the restoration. This leakage allows bacteria and irritants to get into the tooth and thus initiate another cycle of infection. The second common cause is the incomplete cleaning and sealing of root canal space. For root canal therapy to be successful, the canals must be thoroughly cleaned and sealed.
He further added that teeth with failed root canal are still amenable to re-root canal treatment. Although the success rate of retreatment is low – 50 to 70 per cent –it can conserve a large number of teeth from extraction. With proper care, most teeth that have had root canal or re-root canal treatment can last as long as other natural teeth.