FEBRUARY also marks the observance of the National Oral Health Month pursuant to Presidential Proclamation No. 559 signed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This year’s theme is "Ngipin ay Alagaan Mula sa sinapupunan para sa magandang ngiti hanggang katandaan."
This annual observance, which started in 1951 as National Dental Health Week, aims to strengthen public awareness on the importance of the good oral health. It encourages dentists, students, relevant government agencies, and professional organizations to reach out to more people with no access to dental services, especially those who are in countryside.
Most people do not put into their priority their regular consultation with dentists, unlike their scheduled visits with their physicians and other health specialists. The common notion is that dental visits are usually for rich people who can afford to avail dental services. Other people, especially those with meager income, will tend to take their oral health for granted. They will only visit a dentist when al least one of their teeth is sore and aching, and they need to have it removed.
Cognizant of the high prevalence rate (98%) of dental caries among school children, Mobile Dental Vehicles (MDVs) including equipment were provided to the Department of Education in 2016 to be distributed to the regional offices for the oral health needs of children in all schools divisions within the region.
The Mobile Dental Vehicles were distributed to the regional offices to provide basic oral health care among school-age children. Basic Oral Health Care (in accordance with the WHO) refers to a package of essential services including oral disease prevention and oral health care. These may include availability and promotion of affordable fluoride toothpaste for effective self-care, basic clinical care consisting of examination and diagnosis, pain relief and addressing oral infections, tooth extraction and, where available and appropriate restorative care.
Aside from these strategies, it is ideal that a dental clinic in each barangay be put up to provide more access to dental services. In this way, those who cannot afford to visit dental clinics will be given the chance to avail basic services such as oral examination, oral prophylaxis (scaling), permanent fillings, gum treatment, health instruction, and other services.
Dental groups can also contribute by conducting their respective dental missions in areas where there is a high need for such services. Our government should award tax incentives to these private dentists after they have rendered their voluntary dental services through these missions.
Having good oral health is something that contributes to a person’s confidence and good disposition. Spreading smiles across the country is something that the government, the private sector, and the community stakeholders can also work for.