The Ghana Health Service (GHS) says the country needs a national oral health policy to improve access to quality dental care.
Dr Wallace Odiko-Ollenu, the Deputy Director, Non-Communicable Diseases, GHS, said this was important to guide the country to effectively treat oral diseases because over 60 per cent of Ghanaians did not have access to any dental care.
Dr Odiko-Ollenu said this during a free dental screening exercise by the Ghana Armed Forces to commemorate World Oral Health Day in Accra.
He said recent investigations conducted in some communities outside Accra indicated that the only people who provided oral health services were unprofessionals and often with outmoded and unhygienic equipment.
“So the main issue with oral health is the need to improve access, especially in rural areas and this can be done through the use of even non-dental staff to educate the people about the importance of oral health,” he stated.
Dr Odiko-Ollenu advised Ghanaians to go for dental check ups at least once a year to know their status to avoid losing their teeth.
World Oral Health Day is observed on March 20 annually and seeks to create awareness about the significance of oral health and educates individuals about the different oral hygiene practices that one should be followed daily.
The 2023 celebration, on the theme: “Be Proud of Your Mouth For a Lifetime of Smiles”, emphasises the need for people to focus on the importance of caring for their mouths at every stage of life.
It is estimated that oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide. In Ghana, some studies suggest that at least 80 per cent of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 years were affected by gum diseases while 40 per cent of 12-year-olds suffering from decayed, missing teeth, stained teeth, and bad breath.
Col Halidu Salifu Ayinga, the Officer-In-Charge of Dental Division, 37 Military Hospital, said oral diseases negatively impacted people throughout their lives, causing pain, discomfort, social isolation, and loss of self-esteem even though most of those conditions were largely preventable.
“It is, however, regrettable that there is a lack of coordination between Oral Health Education and Public Health as far as policy is concerned,” he said.
Col Ayinga said “there are opportunities for prevention to significantly reduce the morbidity associated with oral health diseases if we synchronise policy and work together”.
He urged parents to start taking their kids to the dentist at early ages to ensure that preventive measures were put in place to protect their primary teeth as well as early detection of orofacial deformities.
Mrs Afia Asante-Adipah, Physician Assistant, Dental Division, 37 Military Hospital, educating participants on oral health, advised parents to limit the number of sugary foods they gave to children.
She said that was crucial as the hospital had recorded a high number of dental caries (tooth decay) in children in recent times.
Dr Louisa Ansong-Satekla, a Dental Surgeon, said even though Ghana had made strides in improving the overall health of the population, much needed to be done, especially in the unserved communities.
Dr Ansong-Satekla pledged the World Dental Federation as well as the Ghana Dental Health Association’s commitment to work with the government to ensure that every Ghanaian had access to quality dental care.