An orthodontist and cosmetic dentist, Dr. Remilekun Williams, on Tuesday said the chewing of sticks, in spite of its medicinal value, could pose risks to oral and dental hygiene.
Williams told the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos that there was a long history of the use of plants as chewing sticks to improve dental health and oral hygiene.
Chewing sticks are mouth cleaning tool that hasve chemical and micro composition suited to clean and protect the teeth.
The commonly used chewing sticks in Nigeria are the miswak, popularly called “Pako Ijebu” or the one got from the lime tree.
According to Williams, there are few health risks associated with the use of chewing sticks.
She said" “The bristles from the stick can penetrate the gums during use and may cause some discomfort and damage to the gum.
“Also, the chewing of stick can only reach the facial surface of the teeth, but cannot reach or clean the inside or lingual surfaces or even the inter-dental spaces between the teeth.”
Williams said that there was the tendency to brush for so long and over-extensive scrubbing could damage the gum.
She said that there were specific plant stems and roots used as chewing sticks because of their good flavour and their effect to the teeth and supporting tissues.
“Aside from the chewing of sticks which originated from plants, there are other modern methods of cleaning mouth, like the use of toothpaste, tooth brush and mouth wash.
“The plants used must be fresh because they are more easily chewed into a brush-like fringe, the foaminess, bitterness and the juice extract is antibacterial,” she said.
Williams said that some chewing sticks were natural with medicinal properties as they possess the ability to prevent cavities as well strengthen the roots and gums.
“It could also function as a jaw-exerciser and as a spontaneous generation of saliva which is beneficial to oral hygiene and general health,” Williams said.