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The 3rd World of Dentistry

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Low income population in the developing world, especially the sub-continent suffers from considerable pain, discomfort and financial stress, due to the inadequate Dental-health infrastructure and lack of awareness about oral health habits. Although, there is some governmental focus on providing general health to ensure the physical well-being of the common man, but the dental and oral fitness is carelessly ignored while formulating the health policy.

These countries have somehow failed to understand that poor dental health can directly affect a person’s overall physical wellbeing and can diminish his ability to eat, sleep, speak, interact, work or study well, besides lowering his quality of life, nutrition and self-confidence. Tooth disease and persistent toothache can also trigger other chronic diseases in the long run, because the patient may fail to deal effectively with his socio-economic engagements and is lead towards mental stress. Many people end up losing a number of teeth during the prime of their life.

Pakistan and some other developing states need to realign their Health Policies, towards incorporating dental health. Need assessment and Health-promotion should be conducted with a socio-dental approach after clearly identifying the common risk factors and the primary needs of the local populace.

Among the most widespread chronic diseases, Oral diseases are the most common irritants, with high prevalence, that creates serious challenges for public health. The symptoms and treatment expenditures have a severe impact on individuals and society. Bad diet, unhygienic teeth, Alcohol, mental stress, smoking, Tobacco chewing (or Betel nut, Gutka), misuse of dentition, are the most common causes of oral disease and other bodily ailments too.

Over the decades, the developed world has adopted several effective practices and methodologies to ensure better oral health on a mass scale. Some progressive governments in the developed world are spending up to USD 3513 per 1000 children on the treatment of “Dental Caries” alone. This amount is bigger than the total Per-Child healthcare-outlays in most of the weak economies.

In case of most adults in the developing world, where dental care is not easily affordable, the untreated dental diseases keep on accumulating for years in the patient’s mouth, ultimately making the treatment a mammoth task. Very few dental care systems can efficiently cope with these challenges, at very high operational costs. Large segments in these developing countries are living without basic dental treatments like; cavities, caries or suppuration, yet the policy makers have been ignoring the provision of oral care.

In some developing countries, the prevalence of dental pain among teenagers is as high as 33% (Brazil). Almost 70% of Thailand’s citizens aged between 35–44 years are not able to give optimal performance at work due to their dental discomforts, thus affecting the nation’s overall productivity.

The strategies for promoting general health should be broadened to include oral health, especially for the High-risk groups. Health-care planners in developing countries can thus enhance the quality of life and productivity of their people. The basic health care philosophy must include Oral care as integral objectives.

Most of the developing countries share the same Oral health-challenges, therefore, the solutions will also be similar. Sri-Lanka is already providing FREE dental care through designated hospitals besides establishing school-clinics for children. Following a similar strategy, Pakistan can also structure a dental awareness field-force by engaging and mobilizing; trained medical staff, Dental practitioners, rural health care volunteers, school teachers, and community elders.

Since the basic teachings of Islam already stress on oral hygiene in a Muslim’s daily routine, the religious orators at every mosque can be engaged to play a vital role in creating public awareness about preventive measures. Such an initiative by the government will quickly spread the message at the grass roots level and the health benefits can be reaped by the masses for generations to come.

In the longer run, mobile-clinics or portable equipment can be used for setting up temporary dental centres in remote areas. Modern telecom technology has already enabled online interactions and consultative sessions between a big city dentist and a rural area resident. Highly sophisticated imported equipment may face disruptions due to frequent electricity breakdowns and non-availability of spare parts, therefore, efforts should also be made to produce dental equipment locally. The planners should also conduct research to encourage the creation of dental equipment that is most suited to the third world environment.

January 7, 2014

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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