The Federal Government has raised concern about the burden of poor oral healthcare in Nigeria, which reflects significant inequalities dis-proportionally affecting persons from lower socio-economic backgrounds and other risk groups, such as persons who cannot maintain their oral hygiene on their own due to age or disability.
This was made known by the Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora while representing Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the 54th Annual General Meeting (AGM) & Scientific Conference (SC) of the Nigerian Dental Association with the theme: “Reinventing Dentistry in a Changing World: Lesson from the COVID-19 Pandemic” in Abuja.
Dr. Mamora said that dentistry is one of the most intimate health professions, where patients must keep their mouth wide open, as dentist and therapist poke inside with mirrors, probes, drills and ultra-sonic scalers. All these produce suspended droplets or aerosol that may hang in the air, potentially carrying the virus that could endanger patients and health personnel. It is therefore noteworthy that the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health in collaboration with other stakeholders has developed new guidelines, and operating procedures have been formulated. This he said, must be followed in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other disease in dental clinics.
The Minister revealed that the history of dental practice which dates back to the 1950s lacks an accurate assessment of oral health situation in Nigeria, which is presently difficult because of the absence of a coordinated system for collecting oral health data in the country. The reasons responsible for this include but not limited to: Low Oral Health awareness and the huge need for Oral Healthcare; Misconception about oral health among Nigerians; Inadequate manpower to meet oral health needs; and inequitable distribution of available oral health facilities and manpower.
In furtherance of awareness creation on oral health disease and its impact on the health of the teeming populace, the Federal Ministry of Health has institutionalized the commemoration of the National Oral Week. A week long activity geared towards raising awareness on oral health, during which free dental screening are conducted through out all the Federal Dental facilities in the country.
Speaking further, the Minister disclosed that the Federal Government through the FMoH has vigorously implemented the National Oral Health Policy which was launched in 2012, in the area of oral promotion, oral health service delivery and human resources development. “ I am glad to inform you that the Oral Health Policy is currently being reviewed taking cognizance of global trends and other emerging public health issues”, he stated.
The Minister revealed that a lot is also been done by the government in the area of Noma control. A rapidly progressing infection that mainly affects children between the ages of two and five years, associated with a 90% mortality rate within weeks after the onset of first symptom if left untreated. To tackle this surge, a National Noma Control Programme aimed at controlling and possibly eliminating Noma has commenced in Nigeria. This programme is funded by the Federal Government in collaboration with and support from Hilfasktion Noma eV, a German NGO through the WHO. It is aimed at creating awareness on Noma as well as training of health workers at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care on early identification and treatment of the disease.
Dr. Mamora who declared the conference open on behalf of the Vice-President urged them to use the opportunity of the AGM to interrogate the current National Oral Health System, identify the gaps based on global implementation strategies desirable of meeting the needs of the people.
Signed by Olusegun Adetola
(Head Media & Public Relations)