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Good tooth brushing habits start with awareness, end with behaviour change

By  Bode Ijarogbe

The importance of good oral hygiene is no doubt a part of overall health being of an individual.  Dentists and Dental Therapists are often asked the question “What should I do to keep my teeth clean and free of diseases?”

The Nigerian Dental Association (NDA) recommends that you brush your teeth twice daily using fluoride toothpaste for fresh breath and to avoid dental diseases such as tooth decay, swollen gums, bad breath, sensitivity and tooth stains. The root of all dental evils is dental plaque, which is a sticky colourless film composed of bacteria, food debris and saliva. Dental plaque accumulates on your teeth and gums. Plaque cannot be rinsed off but can be removed by proper toothbrushing. When it becomes hardened, it is known as tartar/calculus which can only be removed by professional dental cleaning called scaling and polishing.

Dr Ijarogbe

Poor oral hygiene

The bacteria in plaque and food particles interact with sugars and starches you eat. This forms an acid that will eat away the enamel of your teeth and lead to dental caries/ tooth decay.

Also poor oral hygiene will cause swollen gums which may bleed. Eventually with time, the gums pull away from the teeth causing gaps or pockets and later the bone supporting the teeth are destroyed and teeth will become loose and may fall out.

Tooth decay affects nearly all adults and 60–90% of children worldwide, with toothache being the number one reason for absenteeism from schools in many countries. Yet it is largely preventable. In fact, studies show that just brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste can reduce tooth decay by up to 50 percent in children, compared with only brushing once a day.

Health experts have conducted a long-term study to specifically measure the impact of building good brushing habits in young children and demonstrating the positive long-term impact of brushing day and night for two minutes, every day. Just two years into the study, children who were participating had already experienced a significant reduction in dental cavities and nearly 20 years later, these same children are continuing to benefit. As adults, they have undergone nearly 20 percent fewer treatments for cavities than their peers.

How to take care of your teeth

Use fluoride toothpaste like Pepsodent and a soft bristle toothbrush for children or a medium bristle toothbrush or a good power toothbrush.

Brush around all teeth surfaces for at least two minutes; remember to brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth.   Remember to change your toothbrush especially when the bristles are worn.

The Nigerian Dental Association recommends that you change your toothbrush every 3 months.

You can also use a recommended interproximal cleaner or floss to clean in between your teeth every night.

Inspect your teeth and gums regularly, check for changes in colour, swelling or bleeding etc. then contact your dentist immediately if there is a problem.  Visit the dental clinic for a more thorough cleaning every six months or less as deemed necessary by your dental team.

Your role in your dental welfare

You can’t eat certain foods: Avoid sugary foods e.g. sweets, chocolates etc. that can cause tooth decay. Take fruits instead.

Remember: Rinse your mouth after every snack or meal. If you must snack, do it at mealtimes and not in between meals. Refrain from harmful habits such as nail biting, eating ice and chewing on non-edible things like pencils and pins etc.

Reduce stress, increase rest, exercise regularly and avoid smoking.

Cooperate with your dental team in order to achieve and maintain that healthy, beautiful smile you deserve.

Oral Health Education is a very important tool in the prevention of oral diseases and we hope to motivate you to adopt a positive lifestyle. This will enable you maintain optimal oral health for life by preventing oral diseases and enhance your general wellness. The aim is to make the healthier choice, the easy choice that is Brush Twice Daily to avoid dental diseases.

The World Oral Health Day (WOHD) is an international day set aside to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth, to promote worldwide oral health awareness and to encourage everyone to look after their oral hygiene in a bid to help reduce the global burden of oral disease.

The theme of the year 2017 WOHD celebrations is “Live Mouth Smart”.

The Nigerian Dental Association has been passionately promoting oral health in Nigeria, by educating and helping people maintain the brush twice daily beneficial habit. This she has done through outreaches, on-site demonstration of proper toothbrushing, educational fliers, health talk, dental checkup and treatment etc.

Various programmessuch as commemoration of WOHD, Live Learn Laugh and recently Brush Twice Daily campaign, have been executed in both rural and urban areas in Nigeria. These have been executed in partnership with Unilever Nigeria PLC, makers of Pepsodent toothpaste towards improving the oral health status of Nigerians.   As one of the world’s leading toothpaste brands, Pepsodent is doing great work focusing on building long-term behaviour change of brushing twice daily. Indeed, NDA and Unilever Nigeria PLC want to ensure that you live mouth smart.


Ijarogbe is the President of the Nigerian Dental Association, NDA.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.