Oral health matters
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.
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