In an insightful interview with Dr. Farouk Adebiyi Kolawole, a seasoned professional dentist, our reporter, Okediran Adeyemi, delved into the crucial topic of “How to prevent toothache and bad breath?” Dr. Farouk, who completed his house job at Lagos College of Medicine, University of Lagos, and is currently working with Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), has been practicing dentistry for four years. He shared valuable information on the primary causes of toothache and bad breath, daily oral care practices, and the impact of diet and lifestyle on oral health, among other topics.
What are the primary causes of toothache and bad breath that our audience should be aware of?
I would start by saying most times when people see a dentist, 90% will complain that they have bad breath, most people do not really complain about toothache till when the tooth/teeth is really disturbing them. So basically, what are the causes? I would like to break it down in a way everybody can understand.
In our mouth, we have several layers and bacteria’s. These bacteria have different functions—they have specific functions they are doing in our mouth. Some bacteria are there to cause bad breath, while some are there to cause tooth ache. If someone has tooth ache, that means basically the person has cavity problem–that is, a whole in his tooth/teeth.
When you take sugary things—drinks, sweets, and so on; these bacteria in our mouth feed on this sugar, and when they do, they release a substance that drains the tooth, more like weakening it. It takes time, it might be years or months before wreaking havoc.
That’s why we usually advice patients, to at least brush their teeth twice a day (morning and night) with toothpaste that contains fluoride, because fluoride stops the action of a bacteria. Brushing twice a day means you are countering two problems—the actions of bacteria that causes tooth ache and the one that causes bad breath.
The most common cause of bad breath is poor hygiene. What do I mean by poor oral hygiene? I can say that people on this space might have never visited a dentist in their life, and this is actually not good. Many complain of funds but there are government’s hospitals that will offer service at a cheap cost price.
Do you know you might be brushing your teeth 100times a day and still have poor oral hygiene?
We usually advice patients to visit a dentist twice a year for checkup, and also polishing. Basically, what polishing does is different, many patients think it’s for whitening of the teeth, but it’s for taking out bacteria (the ones that cause bad breath and tooth). Nobody should be worried about whitening of teeth in as much as there’s no bacteria that is present. In addition, there’s something we called Clark—it contains saliva, gum and so on.
What are some daily oral care practices that individuals can incorporate into their routine to prevent toothache and bad breath?
The simplest and common one is the routine that we know, but do not always follow, which is: Brushing teeth twice daily. The reason is because, when we wake up in the morning, the particular breath that comes out of our mouth is usually bad.
Now, at night, most people do not bother to brush their teeth at night because to them there’s no reason doing so. It’s important to brush your teeth at night because, at night when you sleep, the activities in our body has reduced or more or less not working compared to during the day when you have more saliva production in your mouth because you talk more.
It’s crucial to state that one of the functions of saliva in your mouth is to clean up and flush out the debris, now this is not always the case when you sleep, because salivary gland won’t be able to work actively.
Also, sticky things are not advisable to be taken at night—chocolate and so on, it can be taken but once it’s taken, you have to brush immediately.
Visiting a dentist is what I will always reiterate over and over. There’s no home remedy to tooth ache and bad breath. When there’s problem of tooth ache, a dentist should be consulted not a pharmacist or quack somewhere. A dentist should be consulted twice a year for checkup and skinning and polishing.
As I said earlier, many people I have always asked me about what toothpaste is the best or should be used. To me, there’s no best toothpaste, just ensure your toothpaste has a huge concentration of fluoride. Fluoride makes the teeth strong also flush out bacteria that are perilous to our dental health.
You don’t even have to visit the most expensive dentist, just visit any teaching hospital, you will see one that can attend to you.
How does diet and lifestyle impact oral health, and are there specific foods or habits that can contribute to toothache and bad breath?
All you just need to do is: Eating balanced diet and also taking enough water, water is very essential. Also, foods that usually leads to toothache are also existing. If you are someone that likes carbonated drinks, chewing gum, plantain chips, chocolate or anything sugary; the truth is: You will likely have toothache or cavities.
Most people usually have cavities for like five years before that start having toothache. This is why it’s advisable to visit your dentist frequently at least for check-up than you waiting before you develop toothache.
Reduce sugary things or rinse your mouth immediately after they have been taken. It takes thirty minutes before the end result becomes acidic. That’s when the bacteria start breaking down the substance in the mouth. So, if you are someone that regularly takes sugary stuff, have a bottle of water by your side to rinse your mouth.
Bad breath, as I said earlier, always occur due to poor oral hygiene. Or our food intakes, if you are a hardcore garlic taker or someone who chews onion, you can’t evade bad breath. If you are someone that always see blood gushing out when you brush, you likely have gum disease which always cause bad breath too, and I will advise you visit a dentist. People with cavities are also prone to bad breath.
Are there any common misconceptions about oral health that you often encounter in your practice, Dr. Farouk?
Yes, they are many. Sometimes during Oral health outreach that I organized, someone asked a question: “I know I usually have toothache, and cavities, my family have gone for extraction and all? Is toothache hereditary?”
Many think toothache and bad breath are hereditary. But that’s equally a lie. Because it’s not. We can say gum diseases are hereditary but these diseases are even specific.
Also, another misconception is: “Concentration of holding a chemical in the mouth for long minutes; after doing that, they will be spitting out worms.”
This is another lie. The quacks will give you a chemical that will melt your gum and at the end of the day, you will think that whatever you spit out is the worm affecting your teeth. And this is injurious to your oral health.
Another one is: “Touch and go”, they would tell you once you touch it, nothing would be wrong with your body system again, that all pains would vanish. It’s a lie. It will only make it worse.
Some people will also come to meet me that they want diastema–gap teeth, any dentist that does this is a quack. No dentist should sit down and starts filling your teeth to create a space in between, that’s quackery.
In case someone experiences sudden toothache or bad breath, what emergency care tips would you recommend before seeking professional help?
I would advise a session with the dentist in order to know more, because at times these things are always caused by gum diseases, as we said earlier about the gushing out of blood. Dental health is actually very serious can be life threatening but most people don’t know.
What are some specific considerations for maintaining good oral health in children, and how can parents instill healthy dental habits from a young age?
Let me start from pregnancy, as soon as a woman is pregnant, she should register for antenatal and also starts seeing a dentist for skinning and polishing. Research has shown that gum disease can be passed down, that is, it can be hereditary. But most people don’t do that because the orientation about oral health is poor.
As soon as your child is six months old, it’s advisable to visit a dentist just for checkup, nothing more. The dentist will just check the baby’s mouth to ensure that there’s no oral anomaly. It’s also advisable to use clean clothes and clean water to wipe around a baby’s gum pad, when they start growing teeth, it’s advisable to get a soft brush too and a baby toothpaste. Visiting a dentist will also help in seeing the formation of teeth to avoid abnormal formation of a baby’s teeth.
However, there should be strict monitoring of teeth brushing for children that are below the age of six. In same light, it’s a wrong thing to allow children to be linking toothpaste and pregnant women should also avoid certain medications like tetracycline and some herbal products because they also affect the dental capacity of a child sometimes.
Could you share insights on the recommended frequency of dental visits?
If you haven’t visited a dentist before, you can always walk up to any hospital to book appointment. As a first timer visiting a dentist especially if you have toothache, always ensure you have done an X-ray of the tooth before any recommendation or examination will take place, just to know the state of the tooth. If they aren’t willing to do an X-ray, leave that clinic to find another one.
There are numerous oral care products available in the market. How can individuals choose the right toothpaste, mouthwash, and other products to support their oral health?
As long as you are brushing your teeth twice a day, you are good to go. Flossing of teeth is another recommended advantage for good oral health. Don’t use toothpicks because it causes damage to oral health, instead of using them, buy a dental floss. If you want to buy herbal toothpaste, if it doesn’t have fluoride, just throw it away.
Water jet is another oral care that can be bought if you could afford it. What it does basically is that, when it’s being pressed, it pushes out water in a great force which in turn helps to flush out bacterium from your mouth.
Don’t buy all these online machineries for teeth whitening. If you want your teeth to be whiter, visit a dentist for a professional teeth whitening procedure.
How do tobacco and alcohol consumption affect oral health? Are there specific risks associated with these habits in relation to toothache and bad breath?
Before answering this question, for people that aren’t based in Nigeria, I mean people who are living in Canada, UK and the likes, the toothpaste you are buying doesn’t contain fluoride because of the water system — which has been treated with fluoride already. You don’t need to buy a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
Tobacco will make you have bad breath, same thing applicable to alcohol. The mechanism adapted with smoking is that, it reduces your body system products. Let’s say your saliva production is 100%, it reduces it to 30%. It weakens immune system which means, you are prone to having dental issues.
Give us tips on the cost of visiting a dentist when it comes to dental health, also what type of brush do you recommend (soft or hard) and how often should we change our toothbrush?
You are meant to change your brush every 3months. Every adult should be using a medium texture toothbrush, while children are meant to use soft texture toothbrushes. The brushes they sell roadsides are always hard. I advise getting a brand from supermarket—that manner, you will be able to get the medium texture ones because it’s always written on its label.
On the issue of cost, every clinic or private hospital has its cost. The minimum you will spend is N15,000 depending on the clinic (private or public), generally dental consultation is expensive all over the world.
Why is that the popular infection always affects the premolar or the molar?
The reason is that the molar teeth are the ones that we always use to grind and chew. They are always ones breaking food substances that get into the mouth.
For those that do not produce enough saliva in their mouth, how do they counter Xerostomia?
Xerostomia means dry mouth. For people that have it, I will advise they go for checkup first, or check if you know you always have it, always drink water. The basic function of saliva is to flush out bacterium from our mouth, water can also act in the regard.
What are those vitamins that can aid good breath and what kind of food or fruits we can take to maximize those vitamins?
I will not say there’s something I recommend that will make you have good breath, the only thing I can recommend is brushing of teeth, twice daily and eat balanced diet.
What are the causes of a broken tooth?
Chewing gum actually weakens the teeth. This can also have effect on how strong a tooth should be. Stop grinding ice-blocks too, it can fracture your teeth. Stop using your teeth on hard things — using your teeth to open a bottle of soft drink can be injurious.