Healthy teeth and gums

The World Dental Federation (FDI) which is the leading global body for dental professionals launched a three-year campaign for World Oral Health Day under the theme “Say Ahh” at the 2017 World Dental Congress held in Madrid Spain. The theme for this year’s celebration was ‘Say Ahh: Think Mouth, Think Health’ which encourages people to make the connection between their oral health and their general health and wellbeing.

“Say Ahh is a phrase commonly used by doctors and dentists during check-up and this invites people to open their mouth for an examination.

The oral cavity or mouth

The oral cavity or mouth contains important structures that include teeth, gingiva (gums), tongue, oral mucosal tissue, major and minor salivary glands as well as other supporting structures including periodontal tissues. According to the World Dental Federation (FDI), a healthy mouth allows an individual to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and the ability to relate a range of emotions with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease. It is also important to understand that mechanical and chemical digestion begins in the mouth. Food is first chewed and mixed with saliva which contains an enzyme called salivary amylase.

This enzyme breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple sugars like glucose which is absorbed into the bloodstream and later taken into cells as a source of energy. Maintaining a good oral health status will result in a balanced oral environment where there is also controlled growth of microorganisms (microflora). An imbalanced microflora will result in major dental disease namely periodontal disease and dental caries.

Oral health and general health

Several studies and reports have confirmed the relationship of oral health to general health. In 2003, the World Oral Health report stated the relationship between oral health and general health is proven by evidence in four major ways namely:

* Poor oral health is significantly associated with major chronic diseases

* Poor oral health causes disability

* Oral health issues and major disease share common risk factors and 4. General health problems may cause or worsen oral health conditions.

Professor Aubrey Sheiham from the University College London stated in the World Health Organisation bulletin that the compartmentalisation involved in viewing the mouth separately from the rest of the body must stop as oral health affects general health by causing considerable pain and discomfort as well as changing what people eat, their speech and their quality of life.

The World Dental Federation (FDI) also highlights that your mouth is a window into the health of your body as it can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection.

Systemic diseases may first become apparent to the oral health practitioners of the presence of mouth lesions and other oral health problems. Everyone therefore, must maintain their oral health status by eating healthy, brushing their teeth twice daily, keeping fit, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking.

World Oral Health Day celebration in Fiji

In Fiji, the inaugural celebration of the World Oral Health Day was held at Sukuna Park on Tuesday March 20 where Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar was chief guest. The event began with a march through the city of Suva from the Flea market to Sukuna Park where official proceedings continued with the official address.

In addition, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services also launched the National Oral Health Week to create awareness and promote oral health programmes and initiatives across the country.

The Oral Health Department of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services has partnered with its stakeholders including the School of Dentistry & Oral Health (Fiji National University), Fiji Dental Association, Fiji Oral Health Workers Association, Colgate Palmolive (Fiji) Limited and the Dental Department at the RFMF George Mate Medical Centre to celebrate this event and to also bring together all oral health professional around the country.

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