Uganda: Neglect to Blame for Bad Teeth

Kampala — Over consumption of sweet drinks, chewing gum and sugar free drinks containing fruit flavorings have been pointed out as the major cause for increased dental problems among the youth.

"Such items contain acidic additives that can lead to the erosion of the enamel as most of these are made using sweeteners such as xylitol and sorbitol that are dangerous to the teeth,"' says Dr. Beatrice Achan a dental surgeon at Mulago Dental Clinic during an interview with East African Business Week in Kampala last week.

Achan urges that the common infections include tooth decay and dental cavities most of these aggravated by the fact that Ugandans wait to get sick in order to seek medical attention.

Dental problems are common among school going children mainly due to poor hygiene and nutrition. "At school, they usually depend on sugary items such as juices and snacks that have acidic contents," stresses Achan.

She encourages parents to take their children for periodical medical checkups as soon as the children develop the first set of teeth especially those at risk of acquiring dental problems.

"For instance a child who sucks her thumb and one that sleeps with the bottle in the mouth."

Achan stresses that patients must consider root canal therapy because it completely counters dental problems. According to her, the removal of the infected teeth and refilling them doesn't provide maximum protection against further injuries.

Root canal therapy refers to treatment by removing the pulp and the nerve to treat, repair and save badly decayed teeth.

"With root canal treatment, the tooth is opened to access the natural cavity, it's cleaned and then sealed", she explained.

She however warns that repeated dental procedures on the tooth can damage the pulp and the nerve thus weakening it for bacterial penetration. Achan notes that root canal is only recommended in conditions where the nearby gum is swollen, or when one has a recurring pimple on the gums and in circumstances where the infected tooth is darkening.

"Such scenarios are an indicator that the tooth is decayed and treatment such as re-filling cannot be of much help".

However, dentists warn that root canal is a rather painful procedure.

Alternatively, people are encouraged to have their teeth extracted and replaced with a bridge rather than having space between the teeth, have an implant or carry out a removable partial denture to restore the chewing function.

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