The best quality professional oral health care, particularly for vulnerable populations, is prominently listed on the 2017 agenda of the Ministry of Public Health. This is according to Minister within the Ministry of Public
Health, Dr. Karen Cummings.
Dr. Cummings said, “The Ministry will continue to work assiduously to further enhance the dental health services currently offered within the public health system.”
According to Principal Dental Surgeon attached to the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Shameer Ali, oral health is closely linked to general health.
Minister Cummings said that the Ministry will be embarking on ways to ensure that provision is made for the nation to be provided with quality oral health care.
Additionally, the Ministry of Public Health will continue to provide service and education to children, since according to Minister Cummings, “We believe that practising effective oral health should begin very early in a person’s life.”
Dr. Ali said that when an individual has bad oral health, that person is at risk of developing other health issues. “It is not just about oral health or the mouth only…for example even gum disease is known to be a factor that could make it very difficult for some persons to control their diabetes,” the Dental Surgeon explained.
He said, “Some people may even be on medication that are ideally prescribed for their condition but still cannot control their diabetes, simply because of the presence of gum diseases.”
But there are even more daunting health conditions that have been influenced by gum disease. Dr. Ali spoke of heart disease and even premature births being linked to gum disease. In the case of premature birth, he disclosed that it has been substantiated that this could be triggered by bacteria that infect the mouth causing gum disease.
”There are a lot of things that are linked to oral health and for too long people have not been associating this with general health. But the mouth is in fact the beginning of your whole alimentary system…so oral health is extremely important,” Dr. Ali related.
The Dental Surgeon said that it is important that people strive to not neglect their oral health. “A dentist or a dental personnel can detect signs of other diseases, generally diseases in the body…For example, the early signs of the HIV infection can sometimes be seen in the oral cavity even before an individual develop other symptoms…That person might become sick months later, but the evidence of the disease could be seen in their mouths,” said Dr. Ali.
In order to meet its goal, the Ministry has been ensuring that the relevant qualified personnel are employed. Currently there are 72 Dental Surgeons and Specialists Registered in Guyana. This number includes four Specialists (two Maxillofacial Surgeons, one Prosthodontist and one Orthodontist).
Added to this, since being introduced in 2006, the University of Guyana (UG) Bachelors of Dental Surgery programme has produced six cohorts of Dental Surgeons.
In 2015, nine Dental Surgeons graduated and eight more graduated in 2016. There are currently 13 graduates from UG’s School of Dentistry working in the public health system, according to Minister Cummings.
In addition there are 30 dentists practising within the public health system and an additional 35 private dentists practicing. Further there are 59 Dentex/Dental Nurses, 21 Community Dental Therapists (CDT) and 23 Dental Assistants within the public health system.
But there has been even more training of personnel to offer the oral health service. According to Minister Cummings, the Ministry also has in place a Dental Auxiliary Training Programme. This programme, according to her, began in 1975 and has trained more than 200 Dental Nurses/Dentex, CDT, and Dental Assistants over the years.
Dentex and CDTs are trained particularly to attend to school children and young adults below 18 years of age. “They work primarily under supervision of Dental Surgeons to impart oral care to children generally, and visit schools in their vicinities to deliver preventive and curative dental care,” Minister Cummings said.
A total of 14 Dentex and four Dental Assistants graduated from the last batch trained within the 2014 – 2016 period. Further there are plans to soon commence a new Dental Auxiliary training programme for Dentex and Dental Assistants, according to Minister Cummings.
The School Oral Health Programme of the Ministry of Public Health provides oral health education, brushing demonstrations, curative and preventive services (fillings, prophylaxis, fluoride treatment, sealants, etc.) to Nursery, Primary and selected Secondary Schools in all 10 administrative regions of Guyana.
This programme is supported by Colgate Palmolive Limited in the form of a stipend for the Dentists and Dental Auxiliary personnel who visit schools.
According to Minister Cummings, the programme sees the organization providing samples of toothpaste and toothbrushes which are distributed to all school children.
The most active regions are Regions three, four, six, and Georgetown. In other areas, while this programme is being implemented, it is done only partially due to constraints such as the lack of enough Mobile Dental Equipment to facilitate widespread visits, Minister Cummings informed.
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