Dental health problems

In recent years, we’ve rightly heard much about obesity and related diseases, such as diabetes. Dental health, it appears, is now joining these conditions as a key area of concern for the region’s health professionals.

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By  David Ingham Published  February 14, 2006

|~||~||~|In this month’s issue of Healthcare Middle East magazine, we published figures from the UAE Ministry of Health on the state of children’s dental health. Another story looked at Saudi dentists’ concerns about the state of people’s teeth. Perhaps not surprisingly, dentists in both countries are extremely concerned about rising level of dental caries.

In recent years, we’ve rightly heard much about obesity and related diseases, such as diabetes. Dental health, it appears, is now joining these conditions as a key area of concern for the region’s health professionals.

The UAE survey shows that up to 80% of 5 year old children suffer from medium or high levels of caries. In Saudi Arabia, dentists confirmed high levels of caries amongst patients and said that awareness of how to keep teeth clean was worryingly low.

Any discussion of dental health inevitably brings us back to points made in previous columns. Lifestyles, particularly eating habits, have been changing rapidly in the Gulf region. Rising levels of obesity, diabetes and, it is now clear, dental caries are an inevitable consequence of higher levels of fat and sugar consumption, and sedentary lifestyles.

In order to deal with all these problems, education is needed. Medical professionals are now urging all their patients to avoid high fat and sugary foods, and do more basic exercise, such as walking and running upstairs. Pressure is on health authorities to support doctors with education programmes that effectively communicate these messages to the wider general public.

Looking at the evidence, dental health also needs to become the focus of these public health campaigns. The messages are simple and familiar to anyone in the field: Clean teeth twice daily, use a new brush and avoid excessive consumption of sugary food and drinks.

What is particularly important in this case is that these messages are communicated to young children and their parents. Dentists will then have a better change of getting to grips with the region’s dental health challenges.||**||

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