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An oral health expert, Dr. Adekemi Adeniyan has revealed that 7 in 10 Nigerian children live with tooth decay due to lack of access to dental care facilities.
While explaining that tooth decay is quite preventable, Dr Adeniyan said brushing and flossing is still not a priority for some families, mostly those who are struggling to make ends meet following the economic downturn occasioned by the coronavirus outbreak.
She said a recent study conducted in rural Nigeria showed that many parents cannot afford as little as toothbrushes for their children while many young people have never received dental care.
“This is a disease that is quite preventable yet it is affecting a large number of African children. Our children are suffering from a silent yet preventable disease”, she said.
Dr. Adeniya decried that Nigeria and Africa, in general, has no effective oral health campaign for children.
She said Africa was not doing enough as a continent to spread the word on oral health among children, worrying that very few schools and communities have oral health education programs for children while those that do, only engage them once a year during the world oral health day.
”I think the oral health campaign for children in Africa can be better, less costly and effective if we meet them where they are at. Schools are a great place to start! We can do better”
When asked how effective continuous awareness creation is on the oral health of individuals, Dr. Adeniya said such campaigns have a huge role in changing the way people view their mouths and the kind of oral hygiene they practice.
She said ”from experience, the communities that have participated in oral health awareness and campaigns organized by governments and organizations have had more positive outcomes in their oral health status and improved oral health hygiene”.
”My team and I have an “oral health book read campaign” in schools to stir up oral health in children. This campaign brings children together to read oral health storybooks and share what they learn. One school, in particular, mentioned that the characters in the book affected the thinking of children around good oral health habits”.
Dr Adesiya has, however, expressed worry that the COVID-19 pandemic created huge uncertainty in dental care services in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
She said the 2020 lockdown across Africa meant that dental clinics were closed and community-based oral health programs put on hold, increasing the burden of oral health diseases among citizens. ”
She tasked parents to emphasise the importance of oral health for children by first modelling what they expect the children to see.