Dr Charles Ononiwu, associate Professor and Chief Consultant Maxillofacial surgeon, says poor oral hygiene can lead to cancer in the oral or facial region of the body.
Ononiwu, who is the head, Department of Maxillofacial Surgery at the National Hospital, said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
Oral and maxillofacial surgery specializes in surgery of the face, mouth, and jaws; it is an internationally recognized surgical speciality.
He said that cancer formation was something that grows gradually and needed to be discovered on time for proper treatment.
“When it comes to oral care, we know that infection generally is one of the things that are responsible for cancers. We have quite a number of infections that go on; if the mouth is not well-taking care of over a period of time it might lead to cancer in the oral and facial region.
“This emerges from poor oral hygiene,’’ the consultant said.
Epidemiology and clinical profile of oral cancer in the 2020 National Oral Health Policy, shows that the disease is the sixth commonest cancer globally.
It is the most common head and neck cancer, with a low five-year survival rate.
Most oral cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, excessive sun exposure, sexual acquisition of human papillomavirus, HIV, ingestion of smoked fish, dietary deficiencies and industrial pollution.
Ononiwu, however, urged the Federal Government to ensure effective implementation of the National Oral Health Policy to address the burden of oral health in the country.
“This policy being formulated is very important. If the government can push it and it becomes mandatory for people to see their oral health practitioners or dentists at least once in every six months.
“So that they go and have basic checks if there is anything that is coming up like cancer because the infections that progress to cancer are taking care of early enough.
“Aside from cancer, there are deadly diseases that poor oral hygiene can cause,’’ he said.
In addition, he urged the Federal Government to include dental care in National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to address out of pocket expenditure for oral treatment.
“I see no reason why NHIS should not cover at least scaling and polishing and other oral diseases. It is very important for the scheme to include them.
“We are hoping that the policy will address it and other issues especially going for check so by the time a child is one year old, it should have seen a dentist. Also, eating healthy is important in oral health; the whole world is eating healthy.
“We advised that children should not take sweet or sugary food; if they must, they should brush after taking such foods. We encourage people to take a lot of vegetables and fruits, fibres,’’ he said.