House officers at the 37 Military Hospital, Accra, have said that toothpaste is medicine and thus advised that the substance should not be hurriedly washed away when applied.
Dr Abdul Mushin Rashid had made the assertion addressing the audience at the Duala Medical Centre's observance of World Oral Health Day, March 20, 2023, chaired by Dental Surgeon Dr Louisa Ashong-Satekla.
After the event, Doctor Nathacia Nana Ama Agyemang and Physician Assistant (PA) Afra Asante-Adipah, in an exclusive interview with Class News' Prince Benjamin, provided an explanation.
"Generally, about 8 to 10 minutes," they said in unison.
"So that, the fluoride in the toothpaste can have time to get stuck and be incorporated into your teeth," Doctor Nathacia Nana Ama Agyemang added.
She questioned the rationale behind application and immediate rinsing away of toothpaste after brushing.
"You didn't give it time to do what it needs to do; to do it's job," she said. "All things being equal, we are supposed to have time, let it sit for a while before we rinse it out, by which time, it would have been able to incorporate into the teeth and perform its function."
She admitted, however, that this practice, although advised, is not practical given the schedules individuals keep and made a suggestion.
"We know it's not ideal because people are busy for work, people have to go to school, and that's why we [say] maybe when it's the weekend that you don't have work and you have the time then you can do that," she said.
She emphasised that the best thing is to "leave the paste for a while before you rinse it out."
Regarding the consequences of swallowing toothpaste while one waits to rinse it out, both medical officers said the concern is usually for children and not adults.
On her part, Dr Nathacia N.A Agyemang said: "Personally, I haven't heard about any medical concerns in terms of swallowing toothpaste." She, however, reasoned that the accumulation of fluoride over time may be the worrying issue.
"It's just that I know that there's fluoride content in it and our bodies needs to be at a certain level of fluoride content so maybe as we keep swallowing it it's increasing that fluoride content and as to what will happen, we don't necessarily see it often [at the hospital] so we [can't speak on it]."
"But ideally, please rinse it out and spit," she concluded.
PA Afra Asante-Adipah interjected.
"When you swallow it, [the concern is] only with kids," she said. "When they still have their primary teeth and the permanent teeth is now developing."
"When they have too much concentration of fluoride in the body, it causes a condition called fluorosis," she explained. "So you'd see brownish spots and discolouration."
"Sometimes, it's even white," Dr Agyemang contributed. "So you see white spots on their tooth."
"And, it's not the best," Ms Asante-Adipah concluded.
The actual brushing of teeth should take two to three minutes, Dr Agyemang indicated, debunking the belief that prolonged brushing equals efficacy.
"It is about how you do it, and if how you do it is very accurate, and professionally done with a better protocol, you can literally spend two to three minutes brushing your teeth and you'll be fine," she said, stressing that it must be twice a day.