Gum disease can be prevented

Dr Maphefo Thekiso extracts one of Ziphezintle's rotten teeth. (File Photo)

Gum disease is a condition caused by bacteria and food debris that builds up on the teeth causing a sticky film known as plaque. As the plaque hardens, it forms tartar and more plaque continues to form. Ultimately, this results in the gums becoming swollen and red.

As it worsens it can cause teeth to become loose as the soft tissue and bone underneath the teeth become even softer. It’s not very common for children to have a serious form of gum disease but it is common for them to develop a mild form called gingivitis.

Gum diseases can be prevented by regularly removing dental plaque by brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing.

It is important to keep teeth healthy and to avoid gum diseases. Good oral hygiene starts with using toothpaste which contains fluoride, anti-bacterial and anti-tartar ingredients and a good quality toothbrush.


When Enock Khoza’s 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with gum disease symptoms, both parents were clueless as to what to do. And so they did nothing until the little girl started to refuse to eat because her gums were painful and swollen and she had a high fever.

“With such high fever we were concerned and decided to rush her to our family dentist. That’s when, after the check-up, the dentist diagnosed her with gum disease and prescribed antibiotics,” said Khoza.

Experts say gum disease symptoms may include: bleeding gums during brushing or flossing; swollen, red or tender gums; loose teeth; gums that recede or move away from the tooth; persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth that doesn’t go away with brushing or flossing.

Luckily Khoza’s daughter had medical aid cover, and after two weeks on the antibiotics, her mouth was healed and clean again.

She has been taught to brush her teeth twice a day with a rounded soft-bristled toothbrush.

According to a local dentist, the first step in preventing gum disease in children is to encourage good dental hygiene. Children should brush their teeth at least twice a day and change their toothbrush at least once every three months as recommended by dentists.

Khoza said he had been told to take his child for a dental check-up and professional cleaning once every six months.

‘Keeping Our Kids Clean’

Jabulile Nkosi recently took her four children for the first time to be checked by a professional dentist when the Phelophepa Healthcare Train visited Ermelo.

To help reduce gum disease in children Thabo Malatjie, a young professional from Mbombela, has started a non-profit organisation called Keeping Our Kids Clean.

The vision and mission of his organisation is to make an impact in the lives of the less fortunate and underprivileged children from Mpumalanga schools by teaching children the importance of hygiene, especially oral hygiene and distributing toiletries.

“I always knew the importance of going for a dental check-up at least every six months. But the problem is that this service doesn’t come cheap. The costs are different from one dentist to another and it can easily cost between R500 and R700. Because I am self-employed I really can’t afford to pay, and we don’t have medical aid cover. The challenge with our public facilities is that you have to make an appointment first which usually takes up to two to three weeks,” said Nkosi.

An edited copy of this story was published by Health24.


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