Experts advice visiting a dentist at least once a year. Photo: Reuters

By Abubakar Famau

Toothpaste ads unwittingly leave you clenching your teeth by either showcasing the aspirational pearly whites you might never have or simplistically highlighting how a squeeze of paste is all it takes to make stains vanish.

What they don't tell you is the more achievable route to a healthy set of teeth – natural or otherwise – and the confidence to face the world with a smile.

Oral hygiene, including well-aligned teeth and odourless breath, is as crucial to personal well-being and professional success as overall health. The thumb rule is that everyone should see a dentist at least once a year, even if there is no apparent problem with one's teeth.

Doctors say that ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory issues, and other health challenges are associated with oral hygiene.

400 million people suffer from dental diseases in Africa. Photo: TRT Afrika

Although this isn't rocket science, few people pay as much attention to oral care as general physical health.

This can be due to several reasons, including a need for more education about the importance of dental care and, sometimes, the prohibitive cost of dental treatments, especially artificial implants.

Studies show that over 400 million people suffer from dental diseases in Africa, where various factors contribute to this situation. Poor oral hygiene and excessive consumption of sugary foods have been identified as significant causes.

Due to high demand for dental care, there has been a proliferation of dental services especially in cities. In Tanzania's Dar es Salaam, for instance, more than 250 dental clinics offer a range of treatments and cosmetic solutions.

Affordability challenge

While dentistry is flourishing, a large section of the population apparently can't afford such dental care, especially artificial teeth, because of the high costs.

As many as 90% of dental clinics import dentures and other implants making these products out of reach for most of the population.

Dr Joshida Benjamin Cosmas, a dentist in Dar es Salaam, says his patients often struggle to bear the cost of dental implants.

Teeth produced are 80% cheaper than imported ones. Photo: TRT Afrika

"The price of a set of artificial teeth ranges between $350 to $900, with the added inconvenience of waiting for one to three months. A single tooth can cost 30,000 to 100,000 shillings in Tanzania, equivalent to $20 to $40," he tells TRT Afrika.

Innovative solutions

Abbas Mshindo, a designer from Lab X Technologies in Tanzania, is among those trying to bridge the gap between the necessity and affordability of dental services.

Using homegrown technology, Abbas and his team have found a way to manufacture artificial teeth quickly at a far lesser cost than imported implants.

"We can produce up to 18 artificial teeth a day, equivalent to 126 teeth a week," says Abbas.

The teeth they produce are 80% cheaper than those imported from Dubai, India, and China. The journey has only just begun for these youths as they seek support to overcome the challenges along the way.

Advanced 3D technology is used in producing dentures. Photo: TRT Afrika

"The healthcare sector has many regulations, which is good, but the problem is that the process for products to be certified by the relevant authorities takes a long time," Abbas tells TRT Afrika.

Apart from this challenge, he points out that there still needs to be more awareness among the public about the use of 3D technology in producing dentures. "This has been a problem for us even in finding experienced workers," says Abbas.

But for those who can finally afford a set of artificial teeth, Abbas's services in a challenging business come as godsend.

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TRT Afrika