Nigeria is struggling with many health, infrastructural, economic and political challenges. But the most challenging of these issues is that “major issues seem to be treated as minor issues and minor issues seem to be treated as major issues”. As nationals and dental professionals that should uphold health we are asked to answer the varying questions that hold back on our oral health and oral hygiene. Not many people bother about oral health in Nigeria and not many seem to care either, we basically lack adequate blog posts and media sensitization about the oral health of the citizenry and its varying debilitating diseases.
Hygiene refers to conditions and practices that help to maintain health and prevent the spread of diseases (World Health Organization). Hygiene is the science of health, it’s promotion and preservation.Oral hygiene are the activities carried out by an individual to make the oral environment free of dental diseases. Oral hygiene can also be said to be the practices that result in the oral cavity smelling and looking healthy.
Struggles of Nigerians Towards Their Oral Hygiene
The pressing issue for us therefore as Nigerians are to find or discover our problems and struggles whilst proposing sustainable and dependable solutions to the struggles.
- CODEH (Committee On Dental Education & Health). Nigeria, as a nation is still growing in its oral health awareness and exposure of its nationals to this sensitive area of medicine and health and as such many community dental outreaches have been held during various dental health weeks and yearly during the World Oral Health Day (WOHD). These outreaches being held are most often than not done within and around “urban communities and its environs”, rarely are these outreaches done for the rural community dwellers whom I suppose are the least educated concerning their oral hygiene, its benefits and consequences when not properly carried out. As much as this outreaches help society and the Nigerian state, they are capital intensive.
- Funding. Nigerians are yet to really appreciate the value of six-monthly visit to the dentist as part of lasting and preventive solutions to their dental health hygiene and disease at large, mostly because of the cost and impoverished nature of some nationals. An interview to some Abuja residents on the last WOHD (World Oral health day) 2018. Say Ahh' showed this in large numbers, most nationals are concerned and educated about their oral health but since the visit to the dentist is expensive especially at private practice level and the public practice, though affordable and accessible are usually overcrowded and as such perceived low patient care and attention to detail becomes a challenge and struggle to the citizenry.
- Trado-medical curation. At most bus stops or junctions in Nigeria today we have traditional medicine peddlers, offices, centres and buyers claiming all sorts of cure to dental health challenges and selling some non-fluoridated toothpaste and tooth powders at highly affordable something cheaper prices. These trado-medical healers which I may say would be of use in future if regulated properly like in the case of China today, in the Nigerian state currently are causing more harm than good to Nationals and oral hygiene at large.
- Availability of dental clinics in rural areas. The inaccessibility of dental doctors and dental practice has hampered on the free flow of dental awareness, oral hygiene education and propagation of health on Nigerians. Its accessibility to locals and affordability are one of the major strains and struggles of nationals.
- Dental education. The number of dental educators and professionals in our nation today also plays a role in the dental hygiene of nationals, people are talking about health on other levels but we tend to forget the 'window to the body', where most medical diagnosis can be done on examination. The number of dental doctors goes a long way to buttressing the challenges oral hygiene and it’s education face in Nigeria. Illiteracy and misinformation about the role of dental professionals and importance are major problems facing Nigeria and the Nigerian with poor oral hygiene.
The above mentioned struggles are to mention but a few challenges oral hygiene faces in Nigeria as civilized nation in 21st century.
Sustainable Solutions to the Nigerian Struggle
- CODEH. The outreaches I propose should be taken not only to the Urban communities as it were but to the rural communities where little or nothing has been taught to the rural dwellers both on formal and informal levels in the current society. And these outreaches should continue and become a routine for ages to come for sustenance of oral health awareness in Nigeria.
- Government Policies. Enactment of policies by the Nigerian state and full implementation of such policies that encourage oral/dental care there by affecting the oral hygiene of the citizenry.
- Funding. Being that dental health, education and service are capital intensive. Public and private partnership projects and fund raisers that are geared towards oral health education and care of citizens. More health funding on the part of all levels of government especially the federal government increasing the quota geared towards health in its yearly budgets, and full implementation and usage by ministry of health on all sectors of health as they bother on the nation.
- Dental Education. Oral health education especially in the rural communities and environs via formal and informal means be commenced and enforced in most basic education institutions. Talking an educating more on preventive care in all societies rather than cure to citizens be carried out by health professionals.
The effects of a poor oral hygiene can not be overemphasized because those who currently suffer from its consequences can attest to the fact of its excruciating and disabling pains if and when not treated properly.
Major Causes of Poor Oral Hygiene in Nigeria
- Unhealthy diet especially diets high in sugar found in biscuits, sweets, etc lacking in nutrients and minerals for healthy gums.
- Dehydration which can lead to bad breath and gum diseases.
- Use of non-fluoridated toothpaste, powders and mouth wash.
- Tobacco smoking which can lead to periodontal diseases and Oral cancers.
- Non and irregular visit to the dentist for dental care.
Lasting Solutions to The Major Causes of Poor Oral Hygiene
- Deliberate and regular consumption of fruits and vegetables which are rich in essential vitamins and minerals for healthy gums and teeth.
- Brushing with fluoride rich toothpaste which are usually NAFDAC and NDA approved.
- Hydration which should be adequate for weight and on a regular.
- Regular and consistent visit to the dentist, six monthly visit highly recommended
- Using mouth wash along side brushing twice and flossing.
- Watching out for toothache, tooth sensitivity and other symptoms.
- Avoidance and stoppage of tobacco smoking.
Effects Of Poor Oral Hygiene
- Psychological effects. Especially on an individual’s self esteem and behaviour towards others.
- Social effects. Any issue affecting any individuals self esteem in the long run affects his social behaviour and relations with other humans in his environment.This may go a long way in affecting the individuals speech, eating and drinking habits and life style in a whole.
- Dental Diseases. Diseases such as periodontal diseases which are largely caused by poor oral hygiene of an individual leading to more debilitating diseases for an individual.
In conclusion, the need for education on oral hygiene as a major and sustainable solution cannot be overemphasized above all else. As we continue to celebrate the world oral health day let us continue to uphold the tenets of the dental profession as we hope to achieve sustainable and dependable solutions to our Nigerian state as a whole.
- Definition of oral hygiene : American Dental Association.
- Definition of oral health : Nigerian Dental Association.
- Definition of Oral Hygiene :Dr. SEYE LOGEDE (Vice President NADS, ABUJA).
- Abuja residents report : Punch Newspaper publication for 21st March, 2018.
- Tips for oral hygiene : AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA PUBLICATION in November, 2018.