Sometime in the first week of July, I was eating boiled corn when I felt a crack in one of my teeth. I stopped the mastication, spat out the morsel in my mouth and was surprised to see the fragment of a tooth in it. With my tongue, I confirmed that indeed a tiny fraction of the top of one of my front teeth was missing. Since I didn’t feel any pain, I resumed eating the delicious corn and finished it without further incident.
I didn’t think much of what had happened until about a week later. I started feeling uncomfortable as my tongue kept going to the affected tooth and the jagged edge was quite discomforting. Consequently, when my wife requested I accompany her to see her dentist because of a persistent toothache, I promptly agreed to go with her in order to use the opportunity to also solve my own tooth problem.
When we arrived Hagei Clinics, a wholly dental and eye care hospital located in the serene Sowemimo Street in GRA, Ikeja, we were welcomed by the courteous receptionist who, after exchange of pleasantries and asking the purpose of our visit, gave me a form to fill and a questionnaire to answer. I promptly filled the form and moved to the questionnaire. One of the questions in the questionnaire however caught my attention: When was the last time you visited a dentist? Even as I wrote “Never before” in the answer column, I pondered why I had never bothered to see a dentist before and how many more people out there were like me – waiting to be jolted by a serious tooth ache or other complications before remembering the existence of dentists.
After, attending to my wife, the dentist, a very pleasant lady, asked me to come in and after examining me, told me she was going to fill the broken part of my tooth. She proceeded, and shortly after she finished, the relief I experienced was amazing.
I decided to engage the dentist in a little conversation and asked what else I should do to further improve my oral health. She advised me to come back for cleaning of the teeth and gave me an appointment. Some days later, I was back at the hospital. After the cleaning, my mouth, and not just my teeth, felt new. Since then, I have been paying better attention to oral hygiene. I also now have a better appreciation of the work of dentists.
I think there is a need to seriously orientate Nigerians on the need to cultivate good oral care habits – with regular visits to the dentist being a key part of the routine. While many people think poor dental care only leads to cavities, research has shown that other serious health issues can ensue. Conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory infections, dementia and diabetic complications, have all been linked to poor dental care.
Even the WHO considers oral health as a very important issue. In the World Oral Health Report, published some years back, the WHO warned that the burden of oral disease was growing in many low- and middle-income countries. It recommended that promotion of oral health should be integrated with chronic disease prevention and general health promotion, as the risks to both are linked.
Visiting a dentist is crucial in the prevention and prompt treatment of not just oral but other related conditions, which when not properly treated, can result in serious complications. Good dental care can indeed save lives.