President's Message

 On the Occasion of World Oral Health Day

 

March 20th marks a very special day as the “World Oral Health Day” is being celebrated globally under the auspicious of FDI, the World Dental Federation. The theme for World Oral Health Day 2014 is “Celebrating healthy smiles”.

With more than 90% of all dental disease untreated; Pakistan has a long way to go before it can truly celebrate health smiles. Almost every Pakistani has or will suffer from oral diseases in their lifetime, ranging from gum diseases and tooth decay to oral cancer. Only 20% of the country’s population enjoys access to oral healthcare; 50% of school children have dental caries; and Oral Cancer is the second most common cancer in the country.

Pakistan has a high incidence of oral cancer which is about 10 cases per 100,000 population. It is the eighth most common cancer in the world and the second most common in Pakistan. It is the most costly to treat, with very low five year survival rate. This risk of developing oral cancer is 15 times higher when the use of tobacco, gutka, chalia and naswar etc is taken into consideration. Major concern is that a vast majority of young children use gutka and chalia. These kids are prone to developing oral cancer if not stopped now. Tobacco use is responsible for up to 50% of all periodontal (gum) diseases. These diseases are directly linked to diabetes, heart disease, premature birth, low birth weight and other health issues. The first line of oral health care is with the individual through prevention and eating healthy foods.

Many of these diseases can be avoided with increased governmental, health association and society support and funding for awareness, prevention, detection and treatment programmes. World Oral Health Day offers the dental and oral health community a platform for action to help reduce the global oral disease burden. Pakistan Dental Association (PDA) is committed to undertake and participate in all activities to bring about positive change in the oral health of the population.

The PDA, this year, has undertaken with renewed zeal and enthusiasm, the target of reaching at least a million Pakistanis, with awareness for the simple dos and don’ts in daily habits. This would go a long way to preserve and attain healthy mouths and teeth. This seemingly impossible task could easily be achieved with the joint efforts of the dental professionals, institutions, NGOs, social society, using the social, print and electronic media.

Instructions, toolkits and awareness material has been disseminated with relevant information to the majority of dental practitioners in government, corporations, public / private sector institutions and dental trade organizations, to use all means of communications, including facebook, twitter and other available means to reach the maximum people with the FDI message of the day to “celebrate a healthy smile”.

In the present situation of oral health in Pakistan much is desired to be done to achieve a healthy smile leading to a healthy life. The simple message to the masses of the dos is; cleaning of the mouth and teeth by whatever means available, including simple rinsing of the mouth after each meal, using miswak or preferably toothbrush which would reduce dental caries and decay by at least 75%. It is estimated that over80% of school children have caries before shedding off their milk teeth. Thus, the awareness campaign and resolve to reach a million people of this country this year is a modest undertaking, considering the magnitude of the problem.

Difficult days are ahead. With our meager resources the remedy lies in making the best utilization of these yearly global efforts of WHO and FDI etc. for spreading dental health awareness in the masses.

(The writer is Prof. of Operative Dentistry and President, Pakistan Dental Association, Centre).