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Ignore oral health at your own peril, dentists say



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By A Staff Reporter
Kathmandu, Jan. 20: For Samir, a 25-year-old from Koteshwor, in Kathmandu, the sudden and excruciating pain in one of his upper teeth while having meal, two years ago, was unprecedented. Upon checking, a cavity was found there, and it came into being following the toothache.
He visited to dental clinic the next day.“While on the way to the clinic, I was wondering why this happened to me despite not consuming any of the tobacco-related products and brushing my teeth daily. And it hurts me a lot,” said Samir.
Then, after consulting the doctors, he learned that brushing teeth daily was not enough. Cleaning mouth after having meal is equally important, as is seeing a dentist once in a while, and I see one twice a year for regular check-ups as a precautionary measure, he says.
Dentists argue that the best way to maintain sound oral health is to take preventive measures and abide by the oral hygiene protocol.
“Unless there is lingering pain in the tooth, people are unaware of the cavity. So only a few people visit clinics to have their oral health checked up. As a result, most of the dental patients arrive at the clinic only after the condition aggravates,” said Dr. Pravindra Adhikari, a dental surgeon.
The study report titled ‘Non-communicable Disease Risk Factors: STEPS Survey Nepal 2019’ conducted by Nepal Health Research Council especially on adults shows that only 5.3 per cent of the participants have ever visited a dentist. And among those who ever did, only a minuscule 2.4 per cent visited for preventive check-up. A whopping 97.6 per cent visited for either consultation or treatment.
The report further states that the most common oral health issues among the adults are: dental caries (tooth decay), difficulty in chewing, bleeding from gums, and swelling.
What’s more, the council’s report reveals that upwards of half the participants (54.5 per cent) reported that they didn’t think it necessary to seek oral health care. Similarly, 23.3 per cent said that the health facility was too far; 13.7 per cent said the treatment was too expensive while 2.8 per cent reported poor service in the health facilities.
“There are over 4,000 dentists all over Nepal, but there are insufficient health facilities to provide dental care. Things are worse in rural areas because the government-run health centres cannot provide quality dental care and private clinics are sorely lacking,” said Dr. Adhikari, who is also the president of Nepal Dental Association.
The government of Nepal has been formulating oral health policies year after year to address a growing concern of oral health diseases, but concerned stakeholders argue that it has been limited to the papers.
“If the government cannot make dental care accessible to all, it can at least make oral health awareness campaign effective. Most people still lack basic knowledge of oral hygiene, let alone preventive measures,” informed Dr. Adhikari.
According to the World Health Organisation, oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people of all age group worldwide. In addition, it

states that more than 530 million children suffer from dental caries of primary teeth. Consuming food and drinks containing sugar, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene and not keeping the teeth clean every day results in normal oral health diseases -- such as tooth decay and gum diseases -- causing oral cancer in some cases.
Since the reports have also shown that many people are unaware of oral health issues -- like hygiene, prevention and treatment -- dentists have requested the government to improve the awareness campaign related to oral health and take it to the reach of everyone.
“Poor oral health doesn’t only affect one’s mouth but also other parts of the body, so it should not be neglected -- neither by the government nor by the public,” Dr. Adhikari told The Rising Nepal. 

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