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GCC public sector dentists urge preventive dentistry
By Mariecar Jara-Puyod February 09, 2018
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DUBAI: Keeping and maintaining a set of strong healthy teeth is not all about aesthetics—about staying beautiful and being able to flash that beautiful smile confidently—but staying healthy throughout life in order to fulfil one’s responsibilities and purpose.

It is against this background that dentists in the Gulf who have chosen to be in the public health sector and academe are for more comprehensive educational and awareness campaigns on oral hygiene and dental care.

The campaigns include family trips and exposures to the dentists and the dental clinics. Parents must play an active role, because their ignorance will cause their children’s future.

Future and practising dentists must be encouraged to specialise in preventive approaches rather than concentrate more on treatments, because the overall health issue is one’s well-being from the cradle to the tomb.

The aforementioned observations were made at the lectures and consequent discussions at the “GCC Preventive Dentistry Session-Prevention Begins Early” on Thursday, the last day of the “22nd UAE International Dental Conference & Arab Dental Exhibition” held at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

The session that tackled research studies conducted across the region among children and their families on the impact of the disregard for oral hygiene and dental care from birth resulting in failing health, was chaired by GCC States Health Ministers Council-Executive Board scientific adviser Prof. Abdullah Al Shammery and Dubai Health Authority (DHA)-Dental Services director Dr Tariq Khoory.

On the sidelines of the meet, lecture presenters DHA-Dental Services Department-Dubai Primary Health Care dentist Dr Shiamaa Shihab Ahmed Al Mashadani and Oman Ministry of Health-Dental Services head Dr Huda Al Bahri, and delegate Princess Noura University-Clinical Affairs (Saudi Arabia) vice dean Dr Abeer Al Shami concurred that all health insurers must give their share by considering oral hygiene and dental care, including the preventive measures in their policies and packages.

They replied to the question raised by The Gulf Today at the open discussions on why some insurers and some members of the medical community have seemingly cast aside oral hygiene and dental care, taking these as simply aesthetics and not about one’s general health and well-being. Al Mashadani said it is critical that insurers are on equal footing with families and the educational and health sectors on preventive dentistry, because neglect will lead to a grim world of unhealthy sick individuals.

She wondered how children would be able to consume their food and eat well with decaying or rotten teeth; how children would attend school, get educated and fully develop their potentials if they go through periodic toothaches and other dental worries.

Asked on the diseases which various research works have discovered to have links with poor oral hygiene and lack of dental care, Al Mashadani not only mentioned diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and asthma, but she also pointed to a study conducted among children and adults in Finland which had revealed that oral cancer is the consequence of the bacterial growth due to gum diseases.

Her lecture was on the DHA study “My Smile: Tooth Brushing Schemes in Dubai Schools, A Step Forward in Oral Health” for which she highlighted three elements.

One, expatriate families or parents admitted are in a bind, because of the limited insurers that offer oral hygiene and dental care in their policies and packages.

Two, routine oral hygiene and dental check-ups must be mandatory from birth just as immunisations are, and be a part of the annual school enrollment procedures.

Three, all dentists must be obliged to do preventive dentistry with their annual assessments and license renewals anchored on this.

“It is not all about aesthetics. It is all about over-all health,” Al Mashadani said.

Oman’s Al Bahri and Saudi Arabia’s Al Shami said having insurers understand their significance in one’s general health through preventive dentistry would in the long-run redound in a win-win situation for public health, general welfare and the industry.

According to Al Shami, one effective way to teach parents is the UK experience wherein mothers, for their own good, advantage and awareness, are expected to routinely take their children from age one to the dental clinic and to the dentist—even only for mere exposure.

Al Bahri said: “Breastmilk is the first food of babies. Preventive dentistry must start (at home with the mothers).”

In answer to the question he himself floated among the panelists and the audience, some of whom were Dentistry students, regarding the need for all dentists to seriously consider preventive dentistry in their practice, Al Shammery said: “Preventive dentistry in private practice can generate money. We are not against money but we have to become responsible for our children’s health.”

Khoory supported Al Mashadani’s recommendation that the renewal of the dentists’ licenses be connected with the number of preventive dentistry cases they have been into.

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