Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 7: Treating Some Common Problems
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You must make a good diagnosis to treat a problem so it goes away and does not return. Why treat a sore on the face by cleaning it when the sore is from pus draining from a tooth with an abscess? You need to know the cause of the sore to give the best kind of treatment.
After you make the diagnosis, you must decide whether you or a more experienced dental worker should provide the treatment.
Know your limits. Do only what you know how to do.
In the following pages, we describe the kinds of problems you as a health worker may see, and we also give the treatment for each problem.
Before you touch the inside of anyone’s mouth, learn how to keep clean. The next 6 pages explain how you can prevent infections by washing your hands, wearing gloves, and cleaning and sterilizing your instruments.
Germs in the mouth
The mouth is a natural home for germs. They usually do not cause problems because the body is used to them. In fact, many germs are helpful. For example, when we eat, some germs break down chewed food into parts small enough for the body to use.
There are problems when the number of these ordinary germs increases greatly, or when strange, harmful germs come into a healthy body from outside. Fever and swelling follow. It is an infection.
When we regularly clean the mouth, the number of germs stays normal. You can teach others to clean teeth and gums, but cleaning is each person’s responsibility.
However, dental workers have one serious responsibility. You must not spread germs from a sick person to a healthy person. You must do everything you can to make sure your instruments are clean. An instrument with blood on it can spread hepatitis (a serious liver disease) or HIV, which causes AIDS.