KARACHI: The Pakistan Dental Association (PDA) has warned that the situation concerning the availability of dentists in small towns and the rural areas of the country has become so dismal that fatal oral diseases among their populace could spread like an epidemic if the due corrective measures are not taken on an emergency basis.
The PDA issued this health alert recently following a press conference at the Press Club held by officials on the eve of World Oral Health Day which is globally celebrated every year on 20th March. General Secretary, PDA, Prof Nasir Ali Khan, Senior Vice-President, PDA, Dr Anwar Saeed, and Dr Asif Arain were also present on this occasion.
“In Karachi, one dentist is available for every 5,000 people on average. The situation is similar in other big cities like Lahore and Islamabad. However, when we go to the relatively faraway district of Tharparkar, not a single dentist is available for a section of the population as big as 200,000 people,” said Dr Mahmood Shah, President, PDA, while speaking to the press.
Dr Shah said that the situation of availability of dental treatment services in the rural and far-flung areas of the country had been getting worse with each passing year instead of improving owing to the utterly indifferent attitude of the relevant public health authorities.
He informed that the dentist-population ratio in Pakistan had been alarmingly uneven across the country as it fluctuates heavily between urban and rural areas as these statistics fall much lower than the standards of public health services set by the concerned global agencies like the World Health Organization.
“One of the means to rectify this situation is by the opening of dental colleges in the small towns of the country as these institutions of dental education should not be just confined to the big cities,” said the PDA President.
He said that another way of tackling the situation could be done via the proper activation of rural health centres of the provincial governments. Dental surgeons should be recruited for placing them at these RHCs for the provision of much-needed dental health services to the villagers.
Dr Shah added that such measures had to be taken to extend the dental care services across the country as oral cancer had become the second most recurring form of cancerous disease in Pakistan after lung cancer.
He said that various forms of chewable tobacco and other hazardous chewing material like Gutka, Mainpuri, betel nuts, Supari, were being consumed in the society unchecked as this social epidemic is equally affecting large cities, city suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.
Dr Shah stressed that early screening and diagnosis of a case of oral cancer could ensure its complete treatment as otherwise, it could prove fatal for the patient if the case was not timely referred to a qualified dental surgeon.
“It is my recommendation that if a mouth ulcer persists for more than two weeks, then it should be properly examined by a qualified dental surgeon on an urgent basis,” he said.
The PDA President stated that apart from oral cancer, other dental ailments were easily preventable as that required adoption of good oral hygiene practices since the days of early childhood.
“Brushing of teeth is compulsory using any toothpaste containing fluoride. That is the most fundamental oral hygiene practice, which should be adopted by all on a daily basis as a norm of their routine life,” he quoted.
He further stated that amongst children, the most common oral health ailment was of tooth decay or dental caries whereas among the adults the common dental problem was of gum or periodontal disease.
Dr Shah said that both of these common oral health issues could effectively be prevented by adopting good hygiene practices. Brushing one’s teeth twice daily is a compulsory practice for everyone, he said.
“Lastly I would suggest that one should not hesitate and readily visit a qualified dental surgeon if any of these common dental issues arise as proper, recommended, and timely treatment of these ailments could prevent further complications related to oral health,” he concluded.