The campaign theme for the just ended World Oral Health Day was a very simple but powerful message: Be Proud Of Your Mouth. This message really resonates with my personal mission to empower Ghanaians to value and take care of their mouth because good oral health can help you to live a longer and healthier life. The question for today is, are you proud of your mouth?

The World Oral Health Day is celebrated worldwide on 20th March and the main aim of this annual event is to ask the world to unite to help reduce the burden of oral diseases which affect individuals, health systems and economies everywhere. It is an initiative of the FDI World Dental Federation; an organization that brings together the world of dentistry with the aim of achieving optimal oral health for everyone. In this two-part series of Mouth Proud, I will be highlighting four (4) key areas on ways to become proud of your mouth.

  1. Start good oral health habits early:

It is important that you start taking care of your offspring’s mouth at a very young age. We tend to ignore this because we presume that the baby teeth do not really play any important role in the mouth. In actual fact, they do. Milk teeth also known as primary teeth are needed for eating, speaking and smiling. Losing these teeth too early as result of tooth decay can dampen a child’s confidence when speaking to others. Research has shown that approximately 530 million children suffer from tooth decay in their primary teeth, which can lead to pain, infection, tooth loss and missed school days. Newborns may not have teeth but you can care for their mouth by wiping their gums with a clean moist gauze pad or washcloth especially after feedings or before bedtime. This ensures that the gums are in good health. The function of the baby’s gums is to protect the bone and roots of the teeth that have not yet appeared in the mouth. The first baby tooth usually appears around 6 months old. Baby teeth can be protected by doing the following. It is important that you place only breast milk, formula, milk or water in bottles. You need to refrain from adding sugar to the milk, dipping their pacifiers in honey/sugar or filling the bottles with sugary drinks because sugar is a main substrate for cavity-causing bacteria in the mouth. Such bacteria feed on refined sugars to produce acids which break down the integrity of the tooth structure. You should avoid letting babies sleep with feeding bottles in their mouths since this can also predispose them to tooth decay. Parents must wean their children off their pacifier at two (2) and a half years and discourage thumb-sucking because doing the aforementioned activities for so long affects the development of their teeth and mouth.

  1. Eat a balanced, low-sugar diet:

Tooth decay is the most common health condition in the world and it is caused by unhealthy diets high in sugar as well as exposure to other risk factors. Our diet in Ghana in recent times is skewed towards sugary drinks and foods. We love to take soft drinks and fruit juices whilst having lunch. At night, we take sweetened energy drinks to help us stay up to meet work deadlines. But did you know that without sugar, tooth decay does not occur? Both the amount of sugar you consume and the number of times you consume it during the day are important factors in causing tooth decay. Adults should have no more than six (6) teaspoons of sugar daily and children should also not have more than three (3) teaspoons of sugar daily. Aside tooth decay, sugar is a major contributor to obesity and increases you risk for diabetes. Curb that sugar intake today.

Join me in the next session so we discuss the remaining key areas to becoming proud of your mouth.

Thanks for reading.

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