WORLD Oral Health Day was celebrated this year on March 20th. It was launched by the World Dental Federation in 2007 and it is the largest oral health awareness campaign in the world.
The Dental Services Unit of the Department of Health and Wellness has a history of developing and implementing effective oral health campaigns and joined the world in observance of this day.
The Unit’s thrust has been to promote good oral health of our citizens, through effective education and promotion. On March 20th, the various clinics around the island conducted an open day for the patients where they provided education, shared information on the connection between oral health and overall health as well as answered some of their questions. Other activities included an open day to the staff, patients and visitors at the St. Lucia National Mental Wellness Centre on Thursday 21st March, 2019. An activity with the members of the Dennery Minibus association will be held at the end of the March.
Campaigns over the past nine years that were conducted by the Dental Services Unit have been partly based on the fact that good oral health starts early, spearheading treatment interventions for students, from preschoolers to adolescents, as well as the implementation of innovative oral health promotion activities such as the well supported Poetry, Poster and Spelling Bee competitions.
This past year, not many activities were implemented in the schools as the Unit has been planning new strategies and collaborating with other Units of the Department of Health and Wellness to address the issue of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Good oral health is known to be “one of the main pillars of general health and wellbeing” as stated by the World Dental Federation.
The risk factors for NCDs and oral diseases such as sugar, tobacco and alcohol, are cross-cutting and so incorporating oral health perspectives into the national NCD plan will help to strengthen the Department’s drive in reducing the burden of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Oral health is multi –faceted, as it integrates our ability to smile, chew, smell, taste, speak, swallow and show facial expressions. In order for us to function effectively as previously mentioned, with confidence, without pain or discomfort and free of diseases, we should all make a concerted effort every day to brush, floss, rinse, eat healthy foods and exercise.
The theme for World Oral Health Day this year is ‘Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health’. Basically it means that if people put into practice these hygiene habits, including a visit to the dentist every six months as well as manage the risk factors, they will have better outcomes for their overall health. According to the Nutrition Unit of the Department of Health and Wellness, reducing our sugar intake to no more than three teaspoons a day for a child or nine teaspoons for an adult is best advised in addition the Substance Abuse Unit, also advises to avoid smoking and consuming alcohol just as the World Dental Federation has proposed.
In conjunction with the theme ‘Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health’, the Dental Services Unit launches its HALITOSIS campaign. Halitosis or bad breath is considered a key indicator of the status of one’s oral and overall health. It is very common and can be very embarrassing. The causes of halitosis are varied. It can originate simply from odours from foods eaten such as garlic or onions, not flossing and having food lodged in between the teeth for too long, not getting a professional cleaning done at least once a year which can lead to gum disease, or due to odours stemming from stomach issues such as gastric reflux.
Diabetics in particular should always aim to have good oral hygiene as the lack of which can lead to an increased volume of bacteria and plaque in the mouth. The bacteria can enter into the blood stream, increasing the toxins in the body that ultimately affects the ability of the body to manage the sugar and insulin levels, thereby causing the diabetes to be uncontrolled. The American Dental Association and some studies have also “found that patients with poorly controlled glucose levels are more likely to develop gum disease than those whose glucose levels are controlled”.
According to the World Dental Federation, “It is never too early or too late to start improving the oral health status of your country” and that is the focus of the Department of Health and Wellness. Oral diseases are preventable and so Saint Lucia, ‘Say Ahhh: Act on Mouth Health’ today!