We all know the saying, “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone”. Is this still the case in 2021? The COVID-19 pandemic has not just physically covered smiles due to the compulsory wearing of masks. Yet, it has also brought along many challenges, loss and uncertainty, resulting in fewer smiles overall.
On 20 March 2021, we celebrate World Oral Health Day. The theme is “Be proud of your mouth, value and take care of it”. Why should I be proud of my mouth in the midst of a pandemic and why is it important to take care of it?
In 2017, it was estimated that over 3.5 billion people are affected or suffer from oral disease. According to the World Health Organisation, tooth decay is the most chronic childhood disease worldwide. Periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, affects more than 10% of the adult population worldwide. Poor oral health does not only lead to dental-related illness but also many known systemic diseases. In some way or another, oral disease affects most people throughout their lifetime, be it discomfort, pain or, in severe cases, even death. This puts a significant burden on physical health, productivity, school and work performance, and social relationships. It is believed that the mouth mirrors one’s general health status; a healthy mouth and a healthy body indeed go hand in hand.
So how do you take care of your mouth?
Not only should you brush and floss your teeth (and tongue) at least twice a day, one should do it correctly. Oral health care workers are always willing to show the correct techniques and applications of oral health care products.
Use a soft-bristle brush with fluoridated toothpaste.
Replace your toothbrush frequently and brush even on those days when you are too tired to do so.
Follow a healthy balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and limit sugary snacks and drinks.
Limit alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Excessive alcohol intake and tobacco use are two major risk factors in developing oral cancer and other diseases.
Use mouth guards when engaging in contact sports to protect your teeth from traumatic injuries.
Visit your dentist and oral hygienist regularly (every six months) to pick up any oral-related changes or disease.
May this World Oral Health Day remind you to schedule that follow up dental visit. Maybe it’s time to replace that worn-out toothbrush or make the switch to a healthier diet. If living a healthier lifestyle doesn’t already give you a reason to take care of your mouth, think about the following: healthy smiles and mouths allow us to speak, eat and socialise with confidence.
What do we miss most looking at friends’ (and strangers’) under those masked faces during this pandemic? Their smiles! Can you imagine a world without good food, great conversations and contagious smiles? So give yourself (and others) a reason to smile and share some well-deserved attention to one of your most significant assets, your mouth! Happy World Oral Health Day 2021!
About Author: Dr Martin Vorster, Senior Lecturer/Dentist, Department of Odontology, School of Dentistry.