Belgrafix, July 28, 2001
“FAILING GRADE ON DENTAL HYGIENE”
The Dental Department in the Ministry of Health in Grenada disclosed that recent surveys of school children between the ages of 6, 9 and 12 years have found their teeth to be in a deplorable state and not in keeping with standards laid down by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to WHO standards, all Decay, Missing and Filled Teeth (DMFT) must not be more than three in children 12 years old. The findings were revealed at a workshop attended by fifteen dental surgeons employed with governments across the region which ended last Thursday in St. George's.
The four-day meeting, sponsored by PAHO, focussed on how to instill good dental hygiene practices in their citizens. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Ramon Baez, a Dental Specialist with the WHO Collaborating Center based in Texas in the United States. One of the objectives of the meeting was to provide training in oral health survey methodology and surveillance systems for technical personnel from selected Caribbean countries and tertiary institutions to enable them to design, implement and evaluate such systems in their respective countries and institutions.
It was also intended to facilitate the use of data from oral health, surveillance system for decision making regarding oral health. During the workshop, the authorities in Grenada released copies of a survey which was conducted randomly between October and December last year by Dr. Baez on 12 year olds across the island including Carriacou and Petit Martinique.
The survey recommended that in order to prevent such massive tooth decay in children that the use of Fluoridated Salt would be an appropriate method to prevent dental caries among the population. However, in order to make sure that everyone receives the benefits of this preventative measure, appropriate legislation must be passed making it a requirement that all salt imported in Grenada be fluoridated.
The initial proposal for a salt Fluoridation programme was proposed by Dr. Crofton Stroude, Senior Dental Surgeon as far back as June 1985. Dr. Stroude had worked in Jamaica with one of the pioneers of Salt Fluoridation there, Dr. Rosalie Warpeha. In June 1990, Dr. Warpeha carried out a one week PAHO consultancy in Grenada and recommended that a national oral health survey should be conducted as part of a situation analysis with the goal of implementing a national salt fluoridation programme soon.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference held at the Coyaba Hotel last week Wednesday, Dr. Baez disclosed that the advantages of fluoridation salt is that there is minimal wastage and that it not very costly. He pointed out that because of its role salt is used by the entire household which would make it an effective weapon in fighting tooth decay. Dr. Baez noted that the fluoridation of salt is at least 500 times less costly than fluorided water for people collect water using different purposes.
Also speaking at the press conference was Dr. Stroude who disclosed that although Cabinet has already agreed to the proposal, it takes an Act from Parliament to implement the programme. He expressed the hope that within the next seven years dental surgeons who are part of the campaign are expecting to see a reduction in the level of tooth decay in young people.
Dr. Stroude said that once the Salt Fluoridation programme is implemented there will be no need for other supplements. Jamaica is the only country in the Caribbean to have introduced the programme and has reported a significant decline in the number of tooth decay among its young people.