Issue 48 / October - December 2004
Health Provided Through The Teeth
Being the product of the cosmic tree, human beings are one of the most complicated biological systems, all-inclusively equipped with both material and spiritual attributes. When examined from diverse points of view, such a multidimensional system and infinitely precise processing order can be much more accurately apprehended. If we compare the human body to a great palace, a modern city or a perfectly-functioning factory, we will be able to understand it better. When we consider the human body as a food-processing factory, teeth are the mechanical grinders that are situated at the entrance of this factory. Moreover, the teeth are given the duty of supplying their owner with speech of a more decent and harmonic quality.
A tooth is created with four main layers: enamel, dentine, pulp chamber and cementum (the thin layer where the tooth attaches to the jaw). The hardest tissue of the body, the enamel is the protective, outermost layer of the tooth. Since it does not contain any living matter such as veins or nerves, we are not affected by hot, cold, sweet or sour stimulants via the tooth. If the Owner of an Everlasting Might and Compassion had not created the enamel of the tooth, which He placed at the entrance of the digestion room in the human palace, as he did, the variety of food we would eat would be very limited. Even slight contact with air would cause us great discomfort, and speaking or even opening our mouth would give us great pain.
The dentine, the hard layer just below the enamel, is a tissue sensitive to hot, cold, sweet and sour stimulants. As a reflection of the Creator‚Äôs Affection for His Creation, the dentine tissue is repaired when necessary by the restoring cells that he placed there.
The most inner part of the tooth is the organic part called the pulp chamber, which is filled with veins to protect the tooth from decay and feed it with necessary nutrients. Nerve cells in the soft pulp tissue play the greatest role in sensing the stimulants of heat, cold and pressure.
If we examine the anatomical structure of a tooth in detail, only then can we clearly see how it is perfectly equipped with wondrous and intelligent structures. However, are we really conscious of the duties of our teeth, placed in our jaws like pearls, in protecting our general health?
One of the main entrances to our bodies for microbes is the mouth. Because of this, maintaining healthy teeth and a clean mouth is very important in preventing diseases and maintaining a healthy life. When the mouth is not kept hygienic, a suitable environment is formed for the emergence of even very feeble microbes. In an unhygienic mouth, food residue accumulates and forms a bacterial plaque on the teeth. Using the glucose in this plaque, these bacteria produce acids. It is this acid that causes tooth decay and gum diseases.
Are we adequately informed about dental health and hygiene, a very important concept in preventive medicine? That Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, emphasized the importance of cleaning the mouth and teeth whenever one does his/her ablution and after every meal, grants a profundity of worship to God by keeping our teeth healthy.
Importance of Milk Teeth
Milk teeth start to appear in a baby‚Äôs gums after about the sixth month of age. The appearance of milk teeth differs from baby to baby according to factors like genetics, birth weight, socio-economics and nourishment level. By cutting a group of teeth every six months, all of the milk teeth appear by the age of 30 months. Between the 6th and 12th months the first incisors, between the 12th and 18th months the first molars, between the 18th and 24th months the first canines and between the 24th and 30th months the second molars erupt. Since the dentine tissue is not fully developed in this period, milk teeth are not at all resistant to decay. Since the pulp chamber is very soft and packed with blood vessels, it is very vulnerable to decay. Sucking fingers, excessive use of a pacifier, sucking or biting lips and gritting teeth all negatively affect the development of milk teeth. During the eruption of milk teeth, babies may have discomfort like itching gums, a need to bite something, excessive saliva secretion, watery eyes, lack of appetite, loss of weight, fever, bad temper and crying. In order to relieve these discomforts, the baby may be given something to chew on to relieve the pressure on the gums, and some cold drinks and cold food to soothe the pain.
As nothing in creation occurs devoid of wisdom, one may ask ‚ÄúWhat benefits are there after the discomforts when a baby‚Äôs milk teeth are coming in?‚ÄĚ In other words, why are the milk teeth so important? Most of us do not give them enough care, because we think of them as temporary. The space occupied by the milk teeth is saved for the permanent teeth, and when the permanent tooth starts erupting, the milk tooth guides it into its proper place. If milk teeth are extracted too early, this alignment and spacing function of milk teeth cannot be performed, hence the permanent teeth may erupt in an improper way. Moreover, milk teeth provide proper chewing and correct vocal speech for the baby. When a baby develops unhealthy milk teeth, this may cause problems like poor facial appearance, and therefore some psychological disorders in the future. Untreated defects of milk teeth can cause pain, bad breath, difficulty in chewing, disorders in jaw development, malnutrition, aesthetic and general health problems like rheumatism and heart diseases.
Protection of Milk Teeth
Since tooth decay in babies‚Äô teeth is very difficult to treat, preventive measures are much more important in looking after the milk teeth. Some of these measures are as follows;
‚ÄĘ A baby must not allowed to sleep with A milk bottle in her/his mouth,
‚ÄĘ Sugar, honey or any other sugary substance must never be added to baby‚Äôs milk,
‚ÄĘ Baby must be given water after every feeding,
‚ÄĘ After baby‚Äôs first teeth erupt, after every morning and evening meal, his teeth must be wiped with a soft, wet, clean towel,
‚ÄĘ Give a soft learning toothbrush to the baby to play with.
A child must start using a toothbrush after his molars erupt, at the age of 2.5 to 3 years old. The size of the toothbrush should be suitable to the child‚Äôs mouth. It should be soft and made of nylon. Children can only brush the front of their teeth. Since the space between the teeth should also be cleaned to provide a shield against decay, parents should supervise their children when brushing their teeth. At this age, a child cannot brush his/her teeth properly, but the main aim to be achieved is for him/her to get into the habit of brushing teeth. Toothpaste may start to be used for the child after the age of three. We must not forget that the important thing for oral hygiene is not the toothpaste itself, but brushing the teeth properly and thoroughly. If these measures are not taken, or if it is already too late, any disorder in the milk teeth must be treated immediately without making the mistake of thinking the milk teeth will be replaced anyway.
The first permanent teeth are the first big molars, which erupt when the child is about six years old. Between ages 7 and 9, the lower and upper incisors, between ages 9 and 10, the lower canines, between 10 and 12, the first and second small molars, between 11 and 12, the upper canines, between 12 and 13, the second big molars, and finally, between 17 and 21, the wisdom teeth, the third molars erupt. During the eruption of permanent teeth, some problems like distorted development may occur. Genetic factors, early loss of milk teeth, breathing disorders, untreated cavities between milk teeth and a mismatch of jaw and tooth sizes, may cause irregular development of teeth. The dental treatment practiced for aligning such irregular teeth is called ‚Äėorthodontic treatment.‚Äô Since irregularities of teeth form spaces suitable for the accumulation of food residue which allows microorganisms to increase and then leads to decay, orthodontic treatment should be done before the permanent teeth are firmly positioned. Irregular teeth may cause jaw-aches because of abnormal interlacing of upper and lower teeth.
There are different thoughts about whether the wisdom teeth should be pulled out or not. Wisdom teeth are placed at the furthest back part of the jaw curvature. This part of the mouth is very suitable for food residue and microorganisms to accumulate. Because of this, wisdom teeth are very vulnerable to decay. In addition, any decay in these teeth may also affect the adjacent molars. If a positive result will not be achieved from treatment, these teeth can then be pulled out. However, if the wisdom teeth will erupt correctly into their places and do not negatively affect the surrounding tissues, and if there is sufficient space for them in the jaws, it is definitely beneficial for them to stay.
Another tooth problem that seems to concern today‚Äôs aesthetic conscious individuals is the color of teeth. However, tooth color is completely a personal phenomenon, like eye or skin color. But still, we must know that some external factors, like tea, coffee, smoking, feeding habits and tooth injuries, and some internal factors, like genetic attributes and aging, may also affect the color of the teeth.
What should we do to obtain Dental Health?
Mouth and tooth hygiene is an important issue that was emphasized strongly by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and the most effective method he used was brushing the teeth. However, after eating acidic foods or drinking acidic drinks like fruit juice, fruits, soft drinks or fizzy drinks, you should wait for about 30 minutes, because the dental enamel will be softer and more sensitive just after consuming such foods and drinks and if you brush straightaway, you may rub the acid into the enamel tissue of your teeth. You can clean the residues of acidic foods and drinks by rinsing your mouth with water or a fluoride based mouth rinse.
Having a healthy mouth and teeth mainly depends upon applying a good brushing technique to the teeth and gums. By applying the brush in a circular manner, you should always start brushing the gums towards the teeth, then the outer surfaces and finish with all inner surfaces. You must avoid damaging the masticator surfaces by applying too much force. Brushing the teeth twice a day at least is necessary to prevent the formation of bacterium plaque.
In order to achieve ideal hygiene for your teeth, you should also use dental floss for cleaning between the teeth. This will help to clean places where a brush cannot reach and thus prevent dental plaque. Also, special mouth rinses may be used in order to provide an effective general cleanliness.
Toothpicks can also be used between the teeth. While they are cheaper, they cannot provide a hygiene as comprehensive as dental floss, since they are thicker than floss. When using toothpicks, you should choose those with blunted tips to prevent any inflammation of the gums. Food residue that has stayed too long between the teeth should not be swallowed, since large amount of harmful microorganisms may grow on it.
In elderly people, due to a lack of sufficient calcium, disorders like gum retraction and wobbly teeth may occur. For people who have lost their teeth completely, because of osteolysis of the lower jaw, dental prostheses may not fit properly in the jaw. During this time of life, extra calcium intake should be provided by following a calcium-rich diet.
With age, the amount of calcium also decreases in the body. In relation to this situation, teeth also become more fragile. Using the teeth to break open nuts may cause cracks that cannot be seen with the eye, which may later cause fractures in the teeth. Therefore, we must never use our teeth to break hard foods, such as nuts, at any age, and we must be careful about breaking teeth, especially during old age.