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Curriculum in Arab dental colleges needs overhaul, says specialist
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod February 18, 2015
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DUBAI: A visiting dentist has called for an overhaul of the dentistry curriculum in Arab dental colleges and universities as a measure to at least minimise the prevalence of tooth decay in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We need to move to a comprehensive cariology (the study of dental caries and cariogenesis or the production of dental caries) education model,” said Riyadh Colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy Rector Prof. Abdullah Al Shammery.

Early on, he said: “We have to start at our colleges and universities where we are teaching our students.”

Pointing out that officials from these institutions and dentistry professors need to change their traditional mindset to novel teaching approaches, Al Shammery stressed that students must be encouraged more to become more adept in preventive dental care than treatment.

“Our students know how to drill. They know how to remove (extract) teeth. But then, students who can show us better preventive measures must get the higher grades than those who drill or polish.”

Al Shammery is in the UAE for the Feb 17 to 19 “UAE International Dental Conference” held at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

On Tuesday, he and 24 other leaders in the field of dentistry and public health in the region including Dr Aisha Sultan and Dr Tariq Khoory from the UAE, signed the document that formalised the North Africa and Middle East chapter of the Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future or NAME ACFF.

Founded in Sept 2010 by 22 dentistry experts, ACFF has evolved into an international non-profitable charitable institution with at least 15 regional chapters. Its goal is to collaborate with various sectors in the national and local levels of each country-member in order to improve oral hygiene and dental care particularly towards a cavity-free world by 2026.

Al Shammery, who is the NAME ACFF-Gulf Cooperating Council coordinator, shared his views on how dentistry colleges and universities can help achieve the cavity-free world 2026 agenda, when he delivered his lecture titled “Cariology in Arab Dental Schools” at the Rose Rayhaan by Rotana in Dubai.

Asked by The Gulf Today during the open forum on how the organisation would push forward their cavity-free world by 2026, he said they would approach all dental schools in the Arab World to strengthen more their curricula in preventive care.

On the global front, ACFF chairman Prof. Nigel Pitts said some universities and colleges in Europe and the Americas have adopted an internationally-accepted curriculum approved in 2010 by ACFF representatives from the UK, Japan, Latin America and North America.

The King’s College London-Dental Innovation and Translation Centre director said: “If we control the caries in the enamel then we could control the cavities.”

ACFF-Levant coordinator Prof Mounir Doumit said the high levels of tooth decay in the region are brought about by the sweet tooth of the residents which also results in diabetes, lack of awareness on oral hygiene and dental care as well as preventive measures, non-existence of insurance coverage for dental treatment, and the fear of the dentist which is rooted at a young age.

In his topic “Caries: A Chronic Public Health Burden,” the Lebanese University-School of Dentistry honorary dean cited that 93 per cent of the 12-year-olds in Lebanon are suffering from tooth decay, 97 per cent, 15-year-olds and 98 per cent from 35-year-olds and above.

Doumit and ACFF-North Africa coordinator/Casablanca Hospital University Centre head Prof. Ihsane Benyahya strongly suggested the need for more awareness campaigns pushing for behaviour change which include the deviation from a rich sugary diet and nutrition, daily to twice-a-day brushing of teeth, and the use of mouthwash with fluoride and toothpaste with fluoride.

Doumit called for a stronger push for school canteens not to sell sweets because there is no point in encouraging pupils and students to practise good oral hygiene and dental care if good diet and nutrition were neglected.

Benyahya said mothers have a major role in inculcating among their families good oral hygiene and dental care.

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