Health

Poor oral hygiene a precursor to NCDs

ral diseases are the most common and preventable non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, many people, especially in developing countries, pay little attention to oral hygiene or still use rudimentary methods to ensure dental health.

According to Prof. Joseph Mucumbisti, a paediatrician, cardiologist and president of Rwanda Heart Federation, oral health has always been neglected, especially in poor countries, where the majority of the population do not use tooth paste for brushing their teeth because of the high cost as well as poor awareness on the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

Worldwide, he says, the biggest problem in oral health is considered to be dental caries and periodontal diseases such as chronic gingivitis and others. He notes that if people don’t adapt new lifestyle and embrace the culture of brushing their teeth and visiting dentists more often, prevalence of NCDs will go higher with time.

“The risk is higher among poor communities because people don’t brush their teeth. However, dental caries are more prevalent in developed countries,” he adds.

Gonzalue Niyigaba, a dentist at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK), explains that dental diseases in developed countries occur because people are more exposed to bad nutrition habits like sugary products. He says, in developing countries, dental caries is less prevalent due to the general lifestyle and genetic factors.

Another important aspect about oral health, Niyigaba says, is the high cost of dental care services, which makes a lot of people shun these services.

Although developing countries are experiencing less severe dental problems, Mucumbisti says the challenge is increasing at a high speed because of the changing lifestyles, where many people are trying to copy western habits.

“The life Africans are living now is more westernised; our children are consuming more sugarly stuff, which increases the problem of oral health. To make it worse, most people don’t use tooth paste or have access to any dental services,” he says.

According to Moses Kamugisha, a dentist at La Nouvelle Clinic in Remera, Kigali, one of the main risk factors for poor oral health is dietary habits, which influence the development of NCDs and dental caries. It’s also linked to development of cancers of oral cavities, he says.

Kamugisha notes that 90 per cent of cases of cancers in the mouth are related to tobacco use.

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