By Adebola Adegoke
The Nigerian Dental Association (NDA) has called for collaborative efforts with government at all levels to increase access to dental care to reduce oral diseases and improve the general health of Nigerians.
The NDA President, Dr Tope Adeyemi, made the call at a media briefing on Wednesday in Lagos.
The media briefing was part of activities lined up to celebrate the 2023 World Oral Health Day (WOHD).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the WOHD is celebrated annually on March 20.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: ”Be Proud of Your Mouth for a Lifetime Smiles.”
According to him, this year’s theme seeks to inspire change by focusing on the importance of oral health at every stage of life.
Adeyemi said that the association celebrates the day in conjunction with Unilever Nigeria Plc, by carrying out oral health promotional activities nationwide for two weeks.
“These oral health promotional activities include visits to schools and markets; outreaches (free dental check-ups, scaling and polishing, glass ionomer cement fillings, simple extractions) to various communities including vulnerable groups.
“There would also be educational programmes such as quizzes, essays and spelling bee competitions, as well as, advocacy visits and awareness through the media and social media channels.
“The reason we should celebrate the WOHD is that, some of the world’s population suffer from oral diseases, most of which are preventable.
“With collaborative action to fund programmes for prevention, early detection and treatment, the effects can be mitigated.
“We strongly recommend that individuals, families, communities, and governments act with appropriate measures to reduce the burden of oral diseases.
“This is because oral diseases have an impact on general health, wellbeing and national economies,” he said.
Adeyemi said that it was pertinent to draw the attention of the government to the limited access to oral healthcare services in the country, especially in the rural areas.
“Nigeria has an estimated population of 218,541,212 in 2022. This gives an estimated dentist-to-population ratio of 1:53,828.
“This implies that a dentist is responsible for the oral health care of approximately 54,000 persons in Nigeria.
“This is far from the recommended ratio of 1: 5,000. This dentist-to-population ratio is worse in the rural areas due to near absence of personnel and oral healthcare services in primary healthcare centres in the rural areas in Nigeria,” he said.
Adeyemi, also a consultant orthodontist at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, commended the Federal Government for signing the National Health Insurance Authority into law to provide universal health coverage for Nigerians.
He, however, requested that preventive oral care services such as scaling and polishing, fluoride therapy, simple dental fillings, dentures and simple tooth extraction be included in primary care instead of secondary care services.
This, he said, would help prevent dental diseases, as well as, ensure prompt treatment of developing oral diseases.
He also recommended the full integration of oral health care into primary health care services to ensure more access to oral health care services, especially in the underserved rural areas at the primary health care centres.
“The NDA also earnestly calls for multi-sectorial efforts to increase the capacity of the training institutions for dentists in Nigeria.
“We also request for improved conditions of service and access to low-interest loans to enable young dental surgeons to establish dental clinics which will greatly assist in curbing brain drain, provide employment and ensure provision of quality oral health services to the citizenry devoid of quackery.
“There is a need for creation of a Directorate of Dentistry at all levels of government in the Ministry of Health to enhance the development of innovative, efficient and effective oral health policies,” he said.
The Registrar, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi, said that the council was committed to tackling internal and external quackery in the profession to improve the services rendered.
“We have seen cases where technicians and assistants in dental clinics take up private practice, register dental facilities and perform the work of a dental surgeon.
“All state ministries of health have an inspectorate unit to carry out routine monitoring to inspect facilities for the practice of medicine or dentistry.
“When they discover such facilities registered under false names, they apprehend and hand them over to the appropriate law enforcement agency,” he said.
Sanusi added that it was crucial for state governments to have medical officers of health at the local governments to make it easy to incorporate dentistry at the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs).
On her part, Dr Gloria Uzoigwe, Head of Dentistry Division, Federal Ministry of Health, said the ministry was planning to embark on community dentistry to enhance dental treatment in the communities.
This, she said, would address the lack of dental personnel at the PHCs in various local governments.
“We are going to visit the National Primary Healthcare Development Authority to address this issue by employing dental personnel and training community dental extension workers.
“We have obtained the World Health Organisation approved training manual for these cadres of staff which is mainly awareness creation, identification of dental problems and referrals. They are not going to be doing anything intensive, to avoid quackery,” Uzoigwe said.
Mrs Oiza Gyang, Marketing Director, Beauty, Wellbeing and Personal Care at Unilever Nigeria, said the focus for this year’s WOHD celebration was to take oral health care message to students in primary schools.
Gyang added that the company would embark on projects later in the year aimed at improving the access to dentists in rural areas. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Zubairu Idris/Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma