THE BLOG

Only Five Dentists and 200 Dental Therapists for a Population of 14Million - What Is Wrong With These Figures?

04/09/2013 12:12 BST | Updated 01/11/2013 09:12 GMT

There is so much news at the moment surrounding children's diets and what impact this has on their oral health, for example the rising number of drinks and snacks with sugar in them which erodes young children's milk teeth. Even with 40,020 dentists available on the NHS to provide help, recent data has suggested that by the age of 10, children in the UK have already had at least one filling!

But has anyone ever stopped to think about those under privileged children in third world countries that have extremely limited access to dental care and how this severely impacts on their health? How does their oral health compare to kids in the UK?

With a population of 14 million and only 5 dentists and 200 dental therapists available, Malawi is quite clearly a country in need of help, which is why, with the support of Dentaid and Colgate, myself and a team of eight dental professionals from across Europe set off to see how we could do just that.

We took part in a National Skills Transfer workshop, held tutorials to educate communities on proper and efficient oral care. Some patients walked for over 6 hours barefoot just to access oral health care. We installed two working dental chairs and with the help of our engineer fixed many others that had not worked in years. Now they can provide fillings and save teeth that previously were just extracted. We also gave out oral health equipment that Colgate kindly provided for us. Oral health is extremely important as research continues to reveal that our oral health has an impact on the rest of our bodies. So it was essential to get to pregnant women and children specifically to educate them about good diet and oral hygiene at an early age. It is only by health education that we can give them a future where they can have a pain free mouth and the possibility of keeping their teeth for life.

For those reading this, I hope it put's things in to perspective when thinking about the ease of access to dental care in the UK and how much we take for granted. We have dental professionals on hand 24 hours a day to help solve our problems and oral emergencies, but even the simple day to day prevention that we take for granted like toothpaste and toothbrushes. Something that many of the children in Malawi were overwhelmed to receive by us and many who had never even seen these everyday items before and had to be taught how to use them.

Dentaid's vision is a world in which everyone has the opportunity to enjoy good oral health and has access to safe, effective and affordable oral health care. Dentaid aims to provide a professional service of the highest standard and to foster a reputation for reliability innovation and creativity.

To find out more about the initiative and Dentaid, and to support children in third world countries like Malawi visit the Facebook page The Dental Project https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Dental-Project/114158115421126

Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland).