A Limpopo dentist is offering free oral health screening services as the country marks National Oral Health Awareness Month this September – and has urged people to stay away from fizzy, sugary drinks which are the main tooth decay culprits.
According to the World Health Organisation, more than 3.5 billion people are affected by oral health diseases. This alarming stat has prompted a Louis Trichardt dentist to not only provide free screening but also hopes to educate people about the importance of taking care of one’s oral health.
Dr Phumudzo Machaka said that not enough information about oral health is available; leading to problems like tooth decay, gum disease, oral cancer and tooth loss. If spotted early enough, they can be prevented.
Untreated tooth decay (caries) in permanent teeth is the most common health condition according to the Global Burden of Disease 2017 study. Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is also very common, with almost 10% of the global population affected. It is further estimated that more than 530 million children suffer from dental caries of primary teeth (milk teeth).
Ditch the fizz now
Speaking to Health-e News, Machaka said that through his years of experience working as a dentist, he has discovered that the main cause of oral health problems among many people is the consumption of sugary drinks.
“One of the simple things, which is causing oral health problems, more especially among children, are sugary drinks as sugar is the main cause of tooth decay. So, it is important for parents to ensure that their children stay away from consuming fizzy drinks and emphasize the importance of drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables,” said Machaka.
He added: “The issue of consuming fizzy drinks doesn’t only apply to children, but older people too. Staying away from these drinks will help protect your oral health so it’s important to watch what we eat and drink. We must always remember that drinking water and eating fruit and vegetables is not only good for our oral health, but our overall health as well,” said the 49-year-old.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, most South Africans eat a diet high in processed meat, salt, sugars, deep-fried food, refined starches and don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Prevention better than cure
A firm believer in prevention, Machaka said that he has decided to offer free oral health screening to impart knowledge about the importance of oral health as he believes that many people, especially within rural areas are suffering from oral health problems which could have been prevented by an early screening.
“Providing free oral health screening is a way of imparting knowledge about the importance of oral health, not only for children but for everyone as people tend to ignore the importance of oral health unknowingly and only visit dentists or doctors when they start to experience discomfort or pain in their mouths,” said Machaka.
“I always preach to my patients that prevention is always better than cure; it is important for people to always go for oral health screening as some oral problems can be prevented if they are spotted early through screening,” he explained.
‘Start them young’
Machaka said that taking care of one’s oral health should kick in during the toddler years and continue throughout one’s life.
“As soon as a child start to grow some teeth, taking care of his/her oral health should start immediately and should never end even when one grows older. Parents and guardians also have a duty to ensure that their children are taking care of their oral health by brushing their teeth all the time which is the first step towards taking care of one’s oral health,” said Machaka.
Disabled children targeted
In 2019, Health-e News, reported how Machaka had established an outreach project to visit special schools for children who are disabled to tackle their oral health problems. But since the project had been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Machaka has called for parents and guardians, who are looking after disabled children, to take them for a free oral health screening at his practice during September.
“With our special schools project forced to take a break in Limpopo due to COVID-19, parents and guardians looking after those living with disabilities, are welcome to pop in for a free oral health screening. The elderly are also welcome,” he said. – Health-e News.