Oral health mat­ters

Jamaica Gleaner - - ORAL HEALTH FEATURE -

THIS YEAR, we cel­e­brate Oral Health Month un­der the theme, ‘Oral Health Mat­ters’. For the first time, a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach has been taken by the var­i­ous rep­re­sen­ta­tive arms of the pro­fes­sion to bring greater at­ten­tion, na­tion­ally, to mat­ters of oral health.

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the oral health-care provider to iden­tify, treat and aid in pre­vent­ing dis­eases of the oral cav­ity. Oral health care has been made more ac­ces­si­ble through the var­i­ous health cen­tres and hos­pi­tals is­land­wide; how­ever, we still have not been able to reach cer­tain sub­groups of the pop­u­la­tion ad­e­quately. This is at­trib­uted to a num­ber of rea­sons, vary­ing from a gen­eral pho­bia of the den­tal prac­ti­tioner, to eco­nomic con­straints. Anec­do­tal ev­i­dence shows that in many cases, if one does not be­lieve there is some­thing wrong in the mouth, the visit to the den­tist will more likely be post­poned un­til the sit­u­a­tion be­comes un­bear­able, lead­ing to dis­tur­bance of ev­ery­day pro­duc­tiv­ity and rou­tine.

While oral care providers are equipped with the ex­per­tise to iden­tify, di­ag­nose and treat which­ever stage of health or dis­ease a client may present with, we would much rather aid in preven­tion, and Oral Health Month is the plat­form from which we broad­cast our cam­paign for preven­tion of oral dis­eases. We aim to pro­mote good oral health prac­tices, ed­u­cate, pro­vide ser­vice to the un­der­served and help in­flu­ence the es­tab­lish­ment of po­lices geared at the im­prove­ment of the oral health-care frame­work and ser­vice de­liv­ery is­land­wide.

CUL­TURAL SHIFT

Against this back­ground, we the na­tional oral health group would like to en­cour­age a cul­ture shift among the pop­u­la­tion, where oral health is given more pri­or­ity. More specif­i­cally, we en­cour­age rou­tine den­tal vis­its to en­able pro­fes­sional as­sess­ment so as not to al­low con­di­tions such as tooth de­cay, gum dis­ease and oral can­cer to go on un­de­tected and con­trib­ute to the gen­eral neg­a­tive health of the pop­u­la­tion. We also en­cour­age ex­pec­tant mothers to un­der­stand the im­pact of good oral health on the un­born child through to early child­hood, and to help those liv­ing with chronic ill­nesses un­der­stand the in­ter­ac­tion with oral hy­giene and gen­eral health.

In view of the fore­go­ing chal­lenges, we would like to em­pha­sise ad­vance­ments in the field of den­tistry, which could po­ten­tially

lead to a greater pen­e­tra­tion of care among the pop­u­la­tion. Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy in den­tal prac­tice in re­cent years have helped to greatly re­duce the trauma associated with some pro­ce­dures. Den­tal train­ing pro­grammes have also been de­vel­oped and avail­able lo­cally, which have pro­duced more pro­fes­sion­als and, by ex­ten­sion, bet­ter de­liv­ery of care. The Min­istry of Health has, in re­cent years, moved to es­tab­lish den­tal cen­tres of ex­cel­lence, which al­low for cen­tralised ac­cess to more com­pli­cated pro­ce­dures for the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. These ini­tia­tives have cu­mu­la­tively served to re­duce bar­ri­ers to oral health care con­sid­er­ably and are ex­pected to con­tinue do­ing so in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

We have made con­sid­er­able progress. How­ever, the jour­ney to­wards an ideal state of oral health among the Ja­maican pop­u­la­tion re­quires tak­ing many more steps. We the com­bined den­tal pro­fes­sional groups re­main com­mit­ted to this cause and en­cour­age the Ja­maican pub­lic to play their part in im­prov­ing oral health care one mouth at a time. DR LISSA A. PINKNEY-GAYLE JDA Chair­per­son Oral Health Month

Dr Lissa Pinkney

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