Tooth plaque is one issue usually talked about when it comes to dental health. As food is so important for us to stay alive, so is the need to take care of one of the major parts involved in the digestion of food i.e. teeth. As much as most people are concerned about personal hygiene, oral health seems to be excluded by many, which lead to tooth plaque – a foundation of many tooth diseases.
Tooth plaque occurs when food waste accumulates on the internal and external surfaces of the teeth. This is when foods such as cakes, candy, milk, biscuits, maize, milk, etc. are left on the teeth. This makes the bacteria that live in the mouth as normal microflora (they live there without harm) thrive on these foods and produce acids that later destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. It can also develop in the tooth root under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.
While growing up, I remember my grandmother used to say the cause of her yellowish teeth is as a result of eating hot food. According to her, very hot food that acted on the tooth gave it the yellow color. There might be other assumed reasons for tooth plaque but it is the deposit of food that actually led to her case. She was from an age where toothbrush and toothpaste were not in existence, and even the local chewing stick was rarely used by the people. Grandma’s issue later led to a serious case known as gingivitis which made her visit the dental clinic.
People nowadays are not excluded from tooth plaque despite that there are toothbrush and toothpaste. According to Mrs. Florence, “My daughter returned from her boarding school only to complain of pain in her teeth. I discovered she bled whenever she brushed her teeth. We had to visit a dentist who made us know that she had tooth plaque. At age 10, she hasn’t desisted from taking candy bars, biscuits, etc. even after taking her meal. She confessed she had them stored in her box”.
Another case was reported by Mr. Ovie, the Managing Director of a company. He realized he had bad breath. The matter got worse when he realized his staff always nod in response whenever they were having a conversation. It was until he eavesdropped on their conversation later that he took the step to visit a dentist to take care of the tooth plaque that led to his situation.
Dr. Omotoba, a dentist at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital has this to say about tooth plaque, “Tooth plaque also known as Dental plaque is caused by accumulation of food debris on the tooth surface which will lead to colonization of bacteria on it. Tooth plaque is caused by Gram-negative bacteria mostly even though Gram-positive bacteria effect cannot be underestimated too”.
Dental plaque can lead to tooth diseases known as gingivitis and peridonitis as well as other oral diseases causing destruction to the hardest known part of the body called ‘enamel’ due to bacteria accumulation. Dental plaque can be reduced by washing our teeth twice a day. I’ll advise people to be conscious of oral health, it is one of the most important routes into the body’’.
According to dental health, the recommendation for an average person is to visit the dentist every 6 months for a procedure known as “deep prophylaxis”. This procedure is not expensive, but people still last years without visiting a dentist. People were therefore asked if they have ever been to a dental clinic or seen a dentist and the reasons they’ve not visited if the answer is no. This is what they had to say:
I haven’t been to one. I ought to but since I am not having any discomfort in my mouth, I see no reason why I should visit a dentist.Alhaji Jamiu, Abeokuta
I haven’t visited in a long while but I will try to do so soon.Adebona Kunle, Lagos
Yes, I have. My first visit to a dentist was as a result of holes in my teeth. I probably wouldn’t have gone if there were no holes. The holes, which were as a result of tooth plaque were filled. Months after, the fillings came out and I had to remove the teeth. It was a matter of life and death; the toothache is that terrible. Since I removed the two teeth, I have said bye to dentists.
I think everyone would like to be checked by a specialist every now and then but the cost of the check-up can be choking. In a country with struggling economy like Nigeria, until people are faced with life threatening situations, they will not visit a dentist or any specialist except for the few that are rich enough to throw money around.Barrister (Mrs) Bukola, Lagos
No, nothing is wrong with my teeth. They are all white and set.Osewa Tife, UNN
Apart from tooth plaque caused by food deposits, people who smoke are also affected. Smokers have dark yellow teeth due to the accumulation of nicotine in the teeth. It is also applicable to the people who are used to drinking coffee and chewing stuff such as gum, goro, etc.
Read also: Are We Taking Too Much Coffee?
Oral health, therefore, should be taken very seriously, just as taking care of other body parts. Many could possibly argue that they couldn’t afford to see a dentist but proper dental hygiene must be done to prevent plaque formation. Here are some ways to prevent plaque formation:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft, rounded-tip bristled brush. Special attention must be given to the space where the gums and teeth meet. A fluoride-containing toothpaste is best used for this purpose.
- Use dental floss to clean between teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria.
- Use an antibacterial mouth rinse to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
- Always eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. Vegetables, such as celery, help to remove food and help saliva to neutralize plague-causing acids.
It is appropriate to visit a dentist or oral hygienist every 6 months for a check-up and teeth cleaning. This helps to prevent the various diseases associated with tooth plaque which includes tooth decay and even tooth loss.
Remember health is wealth and you only live once. Once is quite enough if you live it well.