By Nayak Paudel Kathmandu, Feb. 4: Aditya, a civil engineering student in a Kathmandu college, received a call from one of his friends, a final year Bachelor of Dental Surgery student, for a dental check-up. The reason: Aditya had been consuming gutkha, a tobacco product, for long and the two childhood buddies hadn’t met each other in person since they left school. "They needed patients for a case study, as a part of their college project. Since I have been consuming gutkha for many years, I came to his mind, so he called me for check-up and to be a part of that study. It was then when I came to know about the cavities in many of my teeth," said Aditya. Aditya was unaware of that because he never had his oral health checked-up. When the friend notified him about the cavities, he, seeking treatment, wasted no time and saw a dentist. The grim diagnosis also led Aditya to quit the bad habit of chewing tobacco and be more concerned about other body parts as well. "The cavities were there and spreading fast but I had no clue until the check-up. I would have never visited a dentist until I felt excruciating pain in my teeth. By then, the damage would have been beyond repair," exclaimed Aditya. When the dentist assuaged his nightmare telling him that the damage was not that big, he felt much better. But soon after he began worrying about many of his ghutka-consuming friends who are oblivious to its repercussions. "There are a lot of my friends who consume gutkha but don’t see a dentist because they are yet to feel the pain in their teeth or gums. But I suspect they too are having the same problems as I once had. So I urged them to visit the dental clinic where I underwent treatment," said Aditya. Finally, his friend Sabin, got his oral health checked-up there, and the diagnosis shocked them both. "The dentist told me that if I had not visited a dentist in the next six months, I could perhaps have been a victim of cancer. There was already grave damage in the gums and it was serious," said Sabin. Both Aditya and Sabin came to Kathmandu for higher studies, and their parents are unaware of their gutkha-chewing habit. Nor have they informed their families about their oral health issues. Worried about Sabin, Aditya sat home the day Sabin was diagnosed with pre-stage oral cancer and started calling his friends, urging them to visit the dentists. "I called about half-a-dozen other friends and told them to visit a dentist. A couple of them have already done so, and they informed me about having cavities and gum problems," said Aditya. Aditya’s dental check-up spurred a flurry of timely check-ups of several of his friends, preventing their oral health from turning dire in the process. To make things sweeter, Aditya said, every single of them vowed to end tobacco consuming habits once and for all. Not visiting a health centre for preventive check-up is an issue widely prevalent in Nepal. And when it comes to oral health, the problem is grimmer. A study report titled ‘Non-communicable Disease Risk Factors: STEPS Survey Nepal 2019’, conducted by Nepal Health Research Council especially on adults, shows that only 5.3 per cent of the respondents had ever visited a dentist. And among those who ever did, only a tiny -- 2.4 per cent -- visited for preventive check-up. A whopping -- 97.6 per cent -- visited either for consultation or treatment. Dentists have been urging concerned authorities -- both personally and professionally -- to raise awareness about oral health, saying that there is much more than brushing teeth daily if oral health is to be kept intact. People have to follow several other oral health hygiene procedures if they intend to ensure sound oral hygiene, they say. "People should be made aware of the ways to be followed to maintain optimum hygiene, and encouraging them to visit health centres for preventive check-up is critically important. This way we can help people stay healthy and fit," Dr. Pravindra Adhikari, president at Nepal Dental Association, told The Rising Nepal.