The Ministry of Health will be increasing its promotion of oral and dental care as part of the prevention services at the primary health care level.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, said that embedding oral health care into preventive and healthy lifestyle-related services provided at the clinics, will make significant contribution towards poverty reduction, as children and other vulnerable groups will be able to access these services.
In a message delivered by Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eva Lewis Fuller, on Thursday March 29th official launch of the Jamaica Dental Students’ Association (JADSA) at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr. Ferguson pointed to the importance of oral health to general health care and well-being.
He said that oral care becomes even more imperative, given the high prevalence of lifestyle diseases in the country, as many of the same risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases are linked to the development of oral and dental health problems and vice versa.
He noted that persons in the lower socioeconomic group are usually at greatest risk for poor oral health due to the high cost of these services in the private sector and so providing these services at the clinics, is critical in achieving a better quality of life for all.
Dr. Ferguson commended the students of the Doctor of Dental Surgery programme at the University of the West Indies (UWI) for creating the JADSA, which he said, is essential to sharing ideas and boosting dental health especially at the community level.
"It is my hope that you will take your role as dental professionals seriously, not only for economic gains, but also for what you can do to develop your country and positively impact your community," he added.
President, JADSA, Nicole-Ann Bromfield, said the association seeks to change the mindset of Jamaicans, who view going to the dentist as a curative measure. "We aim to focus on the preventative aspects of the profession through numerous outreach programmes, which we plan to implement on an annual basis," she said.
Miss Bromfield informed that of the 348 registered dentists in the island, only 200 are practising. “The one in 17,000 ratio of dentist to Jamaicans is too large and we hope that JADSA will work to include holding on to our dental professionals once they are trained,” she stated.
JADSA will primarily function as sponsor for the various needs of the students of the Doctor of Dental Surgery programme. The executive has ensured that philanthropic efforts geared towards improving dental health awareness and ultimately, proficient dentistry across the island, is an important objective of the not-for-profit organization.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter