BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Dental Health



With the increase in the knowledge and importance of oral health to overall wellbeing, two vital questions come to mind: First, why was oral health omitted from the UN SDGs to improve global health care on September 27, 2018 at Brussels? And, by direct extension, why was dental health omitted from the public health insurance schemes of many developed countries?

Dental Health, according to WHO is freedom from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that hinders or limits one’s capacity to bite, chew, smile and speak. Poor dental health which hinders psychological wellbeing, is an increasingly neglected public health menace that mostly affects low socioeconomic individuals who cannot afford out of pocket visits to the dentist; dependent population including children, seniors and people living with disability; and of course people ignorant of the need for good dental health. There are several benefits of good dental health such as prevention of common dental problems including tooth ache, dental caries, tooth decay, halitosis etc which cause significant discomfort and morbidity. There is also serious correlation between poor dental health and heart disease as well as depression. Further, systemic diseases such as AIDS, diabetes and genetic conditions like oro-facial clefts can impact oral health providing clinicians with diagnostic mirrors. Aside these medical issues, good dental health improves psychosocial wellbeing as your regular teenager with good dental health would laugh more comfortably than one without.

It is important to address some of the issues that affect dental health such as lifestyle practices including sugar and alcohol intake, tobacco chewing, smoking, vaping, use of dental amalgam, dental fluorosis and poor dental coverage.

Excessive consumption of sugary foods has long been known to predispose one to dental caries, decay, infections and abscess if untreated.

Alcohol and tobacco are serious risk factors for oral carcinoma which is the third most prevalent cancer in Asia.

Vaping has been suggested as an alternative to smoking tobacco due to the well-known negative health impacts of smoking; however, there is inconclusive research about whether it is better for oral health.

There have been concerns over the use of the mercury containing dental amalgam to fill cavities due to negative effects of mercury on health- the 2013 Mina Mata convention and phase down on dental amalgam was part of the move from restorative to preventive oral care.

Despite widespread evidence of the reduction of dental caries by fluoridation, there is increasing challenge to this due to fluorosis and other negative health impacts like increased hip fractures.

Finally, and most worrisome is poor dental coverage reflected by the omission of oral health in public health insurance. Can we expect to tackle the oral health problem without coverage? Of course not… The first step to addressing oral health problems is coverage with specific attention to the high risk groups and individuals with conditions like diabetes, pregnancy etc. The government can help to slowly modify lifestyle habits by setting public health policies geared towards good oral health like increased taxation of sugary foods and reduced availability to school canteens, gradual reduction in amount of tobacco in cigarettes. More so, the general public should be educated in regular ways to achieve good oral health such as brushing twice or thrice daily, regular flossing and annual dental check-ups.

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