by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Children should visit the dentist regularly to maintain healthy oral hygiene
- Grenada National School-based Oral Health Programme to return to schools
Grenada’s Senior Dental Surgeon within the Ministry of Health, Dr Julie Du Bois, is optimistic that with the return of the Grenada National School-based Oral Health Programme, can make a significant dent in the prevalence of early childhood tooth decay.
Dr Du Bois who was forced to postpone a major oral health parade and health fair in the town of Grenville last Friday, said once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and society returns to a sense of normalcy, the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Health will resume efforts to ensure the resurgence of Smile Grenada. This was a national school-based oral health programme that incorporated prevention strategies that required students to be engage in daily classroom toothbrushing routines and receive oral health education.
That initiative was deemed necessary following a national oral health survey in 2010 conducted by the New York University College of Dentistry (NYUCD), which showed that 83% of schoolchildren suffered from untreated tooth decay.
“Prior to the implementation of the National School-based Oral Health Programme, Grenada had the highest number of cases of tooth decay in the region, but with the introduction of that programme, they started distributing toothbrushes and toothpaste for every child in every school to have including some of the secondary schools, alongside the application of fluoride every 3 months or so. It was an expansive venture but it was well worth it and after the first year when they (New York University College of Dentistry) returned it was revealed that there was a decrease of over 65% of tooth decay,” Dr Du Bois said.
This statistic prompted the Ministry of Education to embark on the 2 ½ year implementation of the programme, that resulted in a 90% decrease in new tooth decay in 2013.
The programme received support from Colgate Palmolive and GC America and reached 26,000 children through various schools. Personnel from NYU Dentistry working alongside local public health dentists and dental hygienists helped guide the prevention of oral disease. The cost of the program from 2011-2013, was just over US$1.9 million. The programme was later handed over to the Ministry of Education, but due to a number of challenges, the programme was discontinued.
Dr Du Bois is happy to report that the ministry is now onboard to reintroduce the programme back into the schools. “The Ministry of Education has allocated some financial resources so that we can revive that programme. I must say kudos to some teachers and some schools because although the programme was not very active, they were still carrying on with it and some teachers even took out of their own pockets to assist in the programme,” she said.
Dental surgeon, Dr Amanda Roberts said it is quite unfortunate that children are being brought to the dentist during the late stages of tooth decay. “We have seen parents come to us at the point where the child can have an abscess and their face is swollen due to tooth decay and are in need of antibiotics. Tooth decay can start off as a white spot and if ignored can lead to the breakdown of the enamel towards the pulp with all the nerves, and once it reaches to that point it has access to the rest of the body because it can pass through the blood vessels.”
Both dental surgeons are advocating parents to ensure that their child/children visit the dentist regularly to ensure that they maintain healthy oral hygiene.
As Grenada records its first case of Covid-19, dentists are at higher risk of being exposed to the coronavirus, as they are in direct contact with saliva, Dr Du Bois recommends a halt to elective and non-urgent work. In addition, dentists are asked to ensure that their offices are properly sanitised before and after attending to patients.
“In my position as the Senior Dental Surgeon, I have advised my staff to only see dire emergencies. We are not going to turn away patients in need of our attention but if you can wait, we advise that you wait,” she said.