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High Prevalence of Oral Health Issues Amongst Youngsters Is A Concern: Dr. Heeba Wasque Ali Speaks To CancerMitr

Oral health plays a pivotal role in maintaining overall physical, physiological, and emotional well-being. It significantly contributes to an individual’s personality, with oral hygiene accounting for approximately 90% of body odour, reflecting self-esteem and the robustness of the immune system. Remarkably, optimal oral health can prevent the onset of numerous non-communicable diseases, including 40% of cancers.

Despite its importance, India faces a concerning scenario as it leads the global statistics for oral cavity cancer. More than half of the Indian population suffers from some form of gum disease, and around 40% of individuals lack a full set of 36 teeth. This raises questions about the underlying causes of such prevalent oral health issues.

In response to these challenges, CancerMitr recently kickstarted a pan-India Oral Health Drive, aiming the early detection. Dr Heeba Wasique Ali was part of the first event. 

Dr Heeba wasique Ali, over the course of her career, actively participated in numerous public health initiatives, collaborating with various NGOs and other organizations. Her involvement spans diverse oral health awareness screening programs, with a particular focus on oral cancer screenings. She pursued her aesthetic and cosmetic dentistry from TUFT University and MBA from Welingkar Institute and did her specialisation in healthcare management. 

Her professional journey also included engagement in clinical research pertaining to oral health and hygiene. Throughout this extensive and fulfilling career, she has gleaned invaluable insights from interactions with individuals, patients, and fellow professionals. Oral cancer screening is a crucial part of her public health initiatives.
As someone who firmly believes in the importance of fostering awareness and providing treatment, she highlights the integral connection between the two in promoting optimal oral health outcomes.

1. How does the oral health influence the overall human health?

Oral cavity or the mouth is like the door that opens to the human body. It serves as the important portal through which food, water, air and even microorganisms enter. The ramifications of poor oral health extend beyond mere discomfort, potentially manifesting in stress, weakened immunity, and even cardiac complications. In fact, prior to cardiac surgery, it’s imperative to conduct a dental examination to identify and address any abscesses, infections, or gum diseases. Detecting and addressing these concerns as early as possible is paramount, as they could introduce harmful bacteria to surgical sites, potentially complicating the procedure.

This underscores the profound interconnectedness of oral health with overall bodily function.  Oral health and hygiene are not only essential for maintaining overall physical well-being but also serve as a window into an individual’s internal physiological state. Let me give you a few examples: the scent of a rotten apple may signal diabetes, while the smell of ammonia could indicate kidney issues. Like that, various odours can give away underlying health issues. As a dental professional, I’ve encountered oral lesions that hint at potential cancerous growths and observed wear and tear indicative of psychological issues leading to bruxism, where teeth grinding or clenching occurs. Any deviation from oral health norms should not be overlooked, as it could signify underlying health issues requiring attention. Thus, prioritizing oral health is not just about a bright smile. It’s about safeguarding overall health and well-being.

2. How would you define optimal oral health standards?

Defining optimal oral health standards is pivotal for overall well-being. Picture this. Sensitivity to hot and cold conditions is absent, food items don’t get trapped in between teeth, gums are pristine without any irregularities, and teeth are pearly white with proper alignment, empowering individuals to smile confidently without discomfort. A lack of pain in the mouth region is paramount, serving as a vital indicator of good oral health.

These criteria encapsulate more than just aesthetics; they represent the absence of underlying health concerns. By striving for these standards, individuals not only enhance their quality of life but also mitigate potential oral health issues. Thus, maintaining optimal oral health isn’t merely about appearance—it’s a fundamental aspect of overall health and vitality.

3. What was the experience in Oral Health Drive, powered by CancerMitr, like?

The experience was truly remarkable. I commend the CancerMitr team for orchestrating an exceptional initiative that allowed us to conduct screenings directly within workplace settings.

A participant’s feedback stood out to me— he found the concept of focusing on dental hygiene within the workplace a unique initiative. It’s true. Dental care often gets overlooked amidst busy schedules. The enthusiasm displayed by participants was palpable – their eagerness to engage, ask questions, and address doubts underscored the significance they attached to this initiative.

CancerMitr’s Oral Health Assessment Tool significantly streamlined our efforts. Its efficiency and effectiveness were invaluable, making my role in the screening process notably smoother. This initiative not only highlights the importance of proactive oral health measures but also underscores the impact of accessible, workplace-based health interventions.

4. What are the typical challenges white-collar professionals face in maintaining good oral health?


White-collar workers commonly experience mostly gum-related issues like ulcers and bleeding followed by teeth discolouration, plaque buildup, and even missing teeth. The fact that a lot of them have periodontal conditions is bothersome to me. 

And, it’s alarming to note that many young women are among those with missing teeth. This trend underscores a glaring lack of awareness regarding oral health. While it may be somewhat expected to observe tooth loss among the elderly, witnessing it among individuals with long lives ahead is particularly concerning. 

The decision to opt for tooth extraction over a root canal procedure often raises questions about awareness and preference. 

It makes me wonder, are individuals choosing extraction because they prefer it over a root canal or because they simply aren’t aware of the latter as an option? Importantly, decayed teeth can be replaced with implants, highlighting the significance of maintaining dental equilibrium and occlusion. These factors profoundly influence an individual’s ability to perform everyday functions such as eating, speaking, and sleeping. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that individuals are well-informed about their treatment options to uphold optimal oral health and functionality.

5. Apart from tobacco consumption, what other factors contribute to the risk of oral cavity cancer, as per your understanding?

In addition to tobacco use, excessive consumption of sugar and starchy foods, coupled with a lack of fibre-rich options, contributes to poor oral hygiene and can escalate into a spectrum of health issues, including cancer. Within corporate culture, inadequate attention to dietary intake and hygiene routines is prevalent, often relying heavily on restaurants and food delivery platforms for daily meals. This habitual neglect can manifest in various health and hygiene complications over time.

While completely eliminating sugar, especially refined sugars, from daily consumption is almost impossible, maintaining a balanced diet is imperative. Likewise, the absence of dietary fibre poses significant risks to gut health. Our dietary choices and lifestyle habits profoundly impact our overall health in multifaceted ways, emphasizing the critical importance of mindful dietary practices and hygiene routines.

6. How do you think the Oral Health Drive powered by CancerMitr is going to help in early detection?

The CancerMitr team has put together a remarkable pan-India initiative that proves invaluable in crafting personalized treatment plans to optimize oral health and hygiene. Tailoring treatment plans hinges on numerous factors, including age, lifestyle, presence of co-morbidities, and physician evaluation. Their Oral Health Assessment Tool significantly streamlines the screening process and facilitates data collection for research purposes.

I liken this tool to a pocket-friendly solution for conducting comprehensive oral health and hygiene checkups, epitomizing efficiency and accessibility in healthcare practices.

Do you care about your work family?

Join us in safeguarding the health of your work family by registering for our Oral Health Screening Drive. Early detection is key in combating oral health conditions, including cancer and precancerous signs. 

Let’s prioritize their smiles and health together. 

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Call +91 77188 93810 for details. 

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