The National Dental Association, NDA, has said poor public awareness on oral hygiene and available dental services is affecting dental care in Nigeria.
The association made the observation on Monday in Abuja on the occasion of the World Oral Health Day.
The World Oral Health Day is celebrated every March 20 globally to educate the public on the benefits of a healthy mouth and create awareness on issues surrounding oral health, and to promote oral hygiene among people.
According to FDI World Dental Federation, a consortium of dentists all over the world, 3.9 billion people around the world suffer from oral diseases.
Speaking on this year’s theme ‘ Live Mouth Smart’, Vice President of NDA, Funmi Ashiwaju, said the mouth should be kept healthy “with no dirt, plaque, calculus, illness or ailment whatsoever”.
She said the association was joining its counterparts across world to promote oral hygiene by raising public awareness on the subject and available dental services in the country.
Interviews with some residents of Abuja indicate that many Nigerians resort to traditional medication for oral disease because they think most of the available dental care facilities are private-owned and too expensive, while those in public hospitals, though affordable, are usually overcrowded.
Iyabo Umokoro, a resident of the city, said though she has a hole in her teeth that gives her pain, she has not been able to take care of it because of the cost.
“I have hole in my teeth and I intend going to a General Hospital to get treatment because I heard private dental service is expensive”, she said.
The NDA Vice President, Ms. Ashiwaju, said people should see their dentists every six months whether they have pain or not and also brush their teeth twice every day; morning and last thing at night.
“The problem is that most people are not aware of how to take good care of their mouth and the knowledge of dental services available in the country is poor”.
She however said the situation is improving due to the efforts of groups like her own.
“Compared to what was obtainable 10 years ago, there has been an upward movement in awareness.
“The National Dental Association, in collaboration with FDI World Dental Federation, has embarked on various campaigns and advocacy programmes, such as going to communities and schools, especially among the children, educating them on their oral health so that they can be more aware because the earlier you start taking care of your mouth the better, ” she said.
Kenneth Ighalo, an Abuja-based dentist, said Nigerians generally do not care about oral health until they start having issues with their teeth.
“Most times they often find a way around it by engaging traditional healers who often times compound the problems, instead of visiting the dentist”, he said, insisting that traditional healers do not cure tooth problems.
“The lack of awareness of where to get affordable dental services is more likely the reason why most people don’t visit the dentist.”
Mr. Ighalo said though the cost of services at the private clinics are on the high side for most Nigerians, “most people are not aware that there are dental clinics in almost all the General and Teaching Hospitals across the country with qualified dentists, good dental services and equipment.
“It is when you are aware of something and the alternative services that you can think about getting the care”, he said.
Ms. Ashiwaju said the reason why private services seem to be high is because the equipment are very expensive.
“The cost of buying and maintenance of dental equipment are very high. As such, it affects the price of private services, making it quite unaffordable to many.
“The non-availability of dental clinics in most rural areas has a negative effect on dental services in the country because most of these services are located in the urban areas, making them not accessible to those in the rural areas and thereby making them consult traditional healers who often worsen their predicament, because there is no how worms come out from the tooth.
“However, government dental clinics are also well-equipped with professionals working there as well. Nigerian need to move from the fire brigade approach of dental care to the preventive ones,” she said.
Mr. Ighalo urged Nigerians to visit dentists for routine oral medical checks, care for their oral hygiene, brush their teeth twice and visit a dentist whenever they have tooth ailment.
Ms. Ashiwaju, however, implored the government to implement dental policies that would encourage oral dental care in the country.
“The government should incorporate policies on oral healthcare at all health centres across the states, especially the rural level where Nigerians will be able to access and afford of care,” she said.