Dental health experts have advised Nigerians never to wait until they have major health complications before visiting dentists or hospitals for oral checkup.
This advice was given on Monday in Abuja by officials of the Ministry of Health, dental health association and partners at a media briefing ahead of the National Oral Health Week.
The 2017 National Oral Heath Week with the theme: “Coming together to improve the smiles of Nigerians”, will be celebrated from December 1 to 5.
Oral health is the practice of keeping one’s mouth clean and free of diseases and other problems by regular brushing and cleaning of the teeth.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, in his speech, said government was committed to encouraging Nigerians to take their dental health seriously because the mouth is the gateway to the body and also helps in detecting early signs and symptoms of endemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, measles, syphilis and diabetes.
According to him, oral health means more than healthy teeth, it is multifaceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow and convey a range of emotions through facial expression with confidence and without pain, discomfort and disease of the craniofacial complex.
Mr. Adewole said to strengthen dental services in the country, the ministry was working through its noncommunicable disease division to include oral health in the on-going STEPS survey to enable it generate quality data on oral health nationwide.
He added that the ministry, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, was carrying out surveys to determine the number of primary health care centres in Nigeria that are equipped with oral health facilities and personnel.
“We intend training community health extension officers and junior community health extension workers and other health workers at the primary health care levels in the North-west and South-south geopolitical zones to enable the ministry identify and manage common oral conditions,” he added.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Clement Uwaifo, in his remark at the briefing, said oral health is important but lamented that it is often taken for granted by Nigerians.
He said several factors contribute to the problems of accessing dental care in Nigeria.
The permanent secretary, who was represented by Evelyn Ngige, Director of Public Health in the Ministry, said in order to make dental care accessible and convenient for Nigerians, the government through the National Oral Health Policy targets the integration of oral health into primary healthcare.
“This we intend to achieve by developing collaboration with appropriate stakeholders like the NPHCDA, and World Health Organisation, as well as oral care products manufacturers, to address the common risk factors to oral diseases such as malnutrition, poor oral hygiene, smoking, refined sugars and also to provide the basic package of oral care in primary health centres nationwide,” he said.
The President, Dental Nurse Association of Nigeria, Mohammed Ismalia, urged the government to equip more health care centres across the country and train and employ more nurses to enable them meet the challenges in the dental department.
Mr. Ismalia said the only weapon to win the battle against NOMA and dental health is by applying a multifaceted approach, which includes capacity building, carrying out advocacy, sensitization, rural health education and treatment.
He said dental nurses are highly knowledgeable in cancrum oris, oral health education and child dental health and engaging them will solve over 70 per cent of problem of capacity and ensure that most people especially in rural area have access to dental services.