The Ministry of Health will be intensifying its programme in primary schools, aimed at reducing dental cavities in children.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, said that come March, the dental sealant programme will be focused on students preparing for the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). He said the objective is to reach them before high school when there is usually a decline in dental visits.
Dr. Tufton was addressing the opening ceremony of the 53rd national convention of the Jamaica Dental Association at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in St. James on Thursday (February 16).
Dental sealant is a thin coating that is painted on the teeth to protect them from cavities. Research shows that using dental sealants to shield the back teeth could prevent up to 80 per cent of cavities in school-age children.
The Health Minister said the initiative to be undertaken is intended to address the issue of missing, decayed or filled teeth among the 12-year old cohort, which is currently at 1.08 per cent.
“This sealant project, for us, is one of the ways we intend to reduce the rate to a more acceptable level of less than one per cent; that’s the target we are setting for ourselves,” he said.
Minister Tufton said over the next year, the programme will target 20 or 30 per cent of the more than 50, 000 children in the 12-year old group, and over three years the figure will be increased to ensure that the sealant programme “becomes a standard operating procedure”.
He added that a fluoride varnish programme is also being introduced for children five to six years old.
Minister Tufton pointed out that there has been a general disregard of oral health care by some people and this causes other health problems, which creates a burden for the public health system.
“Unfortunately, we have often placed oral hygiene and oral health care on the back burner in a way that suggests that we do not fully appreciate the effects of poor oral hygiene on our quality of life. If we are to lessen the burden on our health care system, then we must treat oral health care as a part of the general health care thrust as a country,” he said.
Dr. Tufton said that less than 20 per cent of the population visit private dentists per year, and the figure is even lower for visits to public dental facilities.