Take care of oral health, minister advises

Izah Azahari

Oral health problems affect almost half of the world’s population with an estimated 3.5 billion people, according to the Global Health Metrics 2019 study. Meanwhile, the Brunei Darussalam National Oral Health Survey (NOHS) 2015-2017 found two-thirds of the population in Brunei Darussalam suffer from untreated tooth decay.

This was stated by Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar in his message in conjunction with International World Oral Health Day 2021 themed ‘Be Proud of Your Mouth’.

“The Ministry of Health (MoH) introduced its Strategic Plan 2019-2023 with the vision ‘Together Towards Healthy Citizens’ which includes the promotion of oral health and the implementation of dental programmes through close collaboration with other sectors. Among the initiatives included in the strategic plan is to work with the Ministry of Education (MoE) to provide education and skills improvement programmes on oral health as a whole at all school levels,” the minister said.

The minister outlined a number of existing MoH programmes organised by the Dental Services including the Fluoridated Toothbrushing Programme (FTB) – a cooperation initiative between the MoH and MoE aimed at educating children from an early age on how to maintain basic oral care with their Oral Health Awareness briefings and tooth brushing plans at school; and the Toddler Fluoride Rolling Toothpaste Programme (TFRTP) where children are given dental appointments every six months until five to enhance oral healthcare through education, health counselling sessions for parents, and fluoride varnish application to all children at high risk of tooth decay.

Other initiatives that are being implemented include the addition of fluoride in the water supply (a substance proven to strengthen teeth) in 1987, which was a collaborative initiative between the MoH and the Ministry of Development; Provision of Flying Dental Services to meet the needs of residents living in rural areas; introduction of the antenatal programme in 2006 as a nationwide effort in government clinics to emphasise the importance of the dental health of mothers and children as well as their entire families.

Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar

Alhamdulillah, through this initiative, the report from NOHS 2015-2017 shows that the Dental Services has achieved its target in Brunei Vision 2035, which is to reduce the ‘Decayed Missing Filled Teeth’ (DMFT) index to below one for permanent teeth among 12-year-olds,” said the minister. “However, Brunei Darussalam is still working to achieve the goal of 80 per cent of children under the age of six being cavity-free.”

“The celebration is to empower the community with knowledge and understanding regarding oral healthcare and its importance, which is expected to give confidence to each individual in caring for the oral health,” the minister said.

Studies obtained from the American Association of Periodontology shows a link between gum disease and diabetes, with indications that gum disease can make it more difficult to control diabetes; and worsening gum disease can also cause blood sugar levels to rise.

“Studies also show that, those with diabetes are at risk of getting gum disease. Other factors that can increase the chances of getting gum disease include smoking, genetic predisposition, stress, and diabetes. Preliminary studies have also shown an association between gum disease and coronary heart disease,” added the minister.

Tooth decay can cause discomfort and pain that interfere with eating; drinking, sleeping and work as well as academic performance. It can also affect a person psychosocially such as feeling less confident and having low self-esteem, which can result in a lack of participation in community activities.

Alhamdulillah, there are various efforts from the government through various ministries, especially the Dental Services in improving oral health, but each individual has the responsibility to maintain his or her own oral health”.

The minister advised the public to perform regular dental check-ups at dental clinics provided by the government. “The effort and self-discipline of each individual is essential in making a real change. Therefore, in conjunction with World Oral Health Day this year, I would like to recommend that all individuals maintain good oral health, make regular dental check-ups to prevent oral diseases and Be Proud of Your Mouth,” he said.