Amid other concerns that have been sweeping our country off lately, India has another dilemma, in the form of deteriorating public dental health, to deal with. One of the most alarming issues, rise in oral disorders has become a very prevalent trend in India, especially in the past three decades. Let’s learn more about the state of dental health in India and how concerned authorities are working towards it.
In its fact sheet back in 2012, the WHO (World Health Organization) describes: “Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. It is a state of being free from any mouth or facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual’s capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial wellbeing.”
Keeping in view with the WHO guidelines on dental health in India, concerned authorities have come up with necessary intervention through oral care and prevention policies as below:
- Best quality oral health for all
- To reduce cases of dental caries
- To reduce the cases of fluorosis in all age groups
- To reduce the high prevalence of periodontal diseases in the 15+ age group
- To reduce cases of toothlessness for people aged 35 – 44 years
- To reduce edentulousness for people aged 65 and above
- To reduce malocclusion and dentofacial formalities for age group 9 – 14 years
- To reduce new cases of oral cancer and precancerous lesions
- To promote teeth retention for adolescence age
Bumpy road ahead for oral healthcare in India
Lately, though, not only the authorities but Indian dentists and other dental caregivers have been facing a hard time implementing the policies. To start with, there are myriad bumps in the road ahead of India when it comes to the state of oral healthcare in the country.
As per the observations and inferences by Indian dentists, the current state of dental health in India is “somewhat bad”. Some of the key challenges faced by the Indian dentists include periodontal diseases, dental caries, lack of oral healthcare awareness, increasing rate of oral cancer, and poor dental education system.
Other barriers in oral healthcare in India are:
- People lack acknowledgment of the importance of oral health
- Shortage of dental health caregivers
- Limited access to proper oral health caregiver
- Unaffordable dental treatment options
- Poor or inconsistent quality of dental treatment
The next steps…
Despite a long, bumpy journey, there is a severe need to devise and implement dental health prevention strategies in India. For which, the starting point or the priority areas should be:
- Best quality care
Best quality care is a great concern in the dental industry, especially in rural areas. Hence, it is advised that the caregivers follow the best sterilization and hygiene protocols in consultation with the stakeholders, dentists, and dental students.
- Government intervention
There is a severe need for Government intervention, wherein the significance of oral care would be highlighted as a national agenda for one and all. Additionally, other stakeholders including schools, colleges, district administration, gram panchayat, dental colleges, voluntary groups, and private sector also do need to step up for dental health awareness.
- Concentration on rural areas
It is essential to create a conducive ecosystem where dental practitioners are motivated to serve in rural areas. In spite of the ample number of dentists, the rural deployment of dentists is very poor. Ideally, WHO recommends dentists to population ratio as 1:7500, as against the existing 1:10271.
- Strengthening infrastructure
Lastly, there is an urgency to strengthen infrastructure for everyone to be able to access the best quality oral healthcare. That means the dental health care ecosystem must include everyone should have uniform access to dental specialists, robust machinery and equipment, dental auxiliaries, oral hygienists, dental lab technicians, etc.
The government has already laid the groundwork for overall wellbeing with the Ayushman Bharat project underway. With new additions and guidelines in the pipeline, oral care is also not too behind to become a priority for public healthcare. But if the government fails to abide by it, we would surely be staring at a silent crisis in the near future.