Zimbabweans cautioned oral, dental health key to body wellness





HARARE, – Zimbabweans have been urged to develop healthy behavior as the world commemorates Oral and Dental Health Care week from Nov. 18-21.

Medical experts sounded the alarm as they believe Zimbabweans are not keen on seeking dental services.

“The mouth is the gateway to overall health and therefore neglecting the teeth and gums would result in a variety of hygiene-related illnesses and undesirable oral health conditions,” Marvelous Buse, a microbiology research fellow at the Bindura University told Anadolu Agency.

“These range from loss of teeth and gum disease to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.”

Deputy Health Minister John Mangwiro agreed. “We are currently raising awareness regarding good oral and dental health care to prevent the sprouting of hygiene-related ailments as we now have a surge of non-communicable diseases amongst our people,” he said.

“Keeping your mouth healthy improves your general body wellness. It’s not just people with HIV and diabetes but many people, including pregnant women, people with hypertension and even cancer patients, are also susceptible.”

Malnutrition and mouth infections

Mangwiro said malnutrition results in mouth infections, especially when someone has underlying diseases such as diabetes and HIV.

“Our people need to realize that oral health care starts with good eating habits. It’s a combination of several things and all that leads to general body wellness,” he said. “Everything starts in the mouth.”

“Periodontal diseases are the most prevalent noncommunicable chronic diseases that have a significant impact on public health expenditure and also have a high impact on individual quality of life, especially in developing countries,” said Buse.

Periodontal diseases refer to folliculitis, gum inflammation, bad breath and oral ulcers.

Affordability of mouth washing products

At least 60% of Zimbabweans live in rural areas, hence the majority do not see oral health care as a priority owing to poverty and ignorance, said experts.

“We have a huge task of raising awareness as a lot of people think dental services refers to the removal of teeth yet they can seek several other dental services,“ Dr. Hardwicke Matikiti, an oral and dental health expert in the Health Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

Matikiti said health care products are beyond the reach of many Zimbabweans as local manufacturing companies closed a decade ago, owing to economic challenges.

Experts bemoaned the absence of companies that had a huge corporate responsibility in teaching school children proper oral and dental care by providing free toothbrushes and toothpaste, especially in remote areas.

The absence of local companies producing health care products means the government has had to take over but owing to macroeconomic constraints, a knowledge gap was created.

In the face of expensive manufacturing technologies for dental health care products as well as anti-microbial resistance, adverse side effects, especially in immunocompromised people, Buse saw it fit to develop oral health interventions at the Bindura University for the maintenance and repair of the oral cavity.

“The products we are making are herbal toothpaste and mouth wash that are polyherbal-based produced by combining local herbs and have anti-microbial and bio-repair attributes,” he said.

At least 2 million Zimbabweans, the majority of whom live in rural areas, face starvation each year owing to a combination of droughts and a struggling economy.

Most vulnerable people are also said to face challenges in getting basic toothbrushes and mouthwash.

Anadolu Agency