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KINGSTON — Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Jean Dixon, says there is a need to instill a culture of good oral health in Jamaica's children, from a very early age.

"This is the only way that we will achieve the type of culture change that we need in Jamaica, that will bring persons to the realization that health does not exclude oral health," she said.

She was speaking on the theme of this year's Oral Health Month, “A lifetime of smile begins with the first tooth”, at the launch on Tuesday (October 4) at the University of Technology (UTech), Kingston.

Dr. Dixon, who was represented by the Principal Financial Officer in the Ministry, Michael Maragh, who read the message, said that highlighting oral health, annually, will help to keep it in focus and, hopefully, instill in Jamaicans the need to invest in oral health to achieve optimal physical health.

She noted that many non communicable diseases point to bad oral health as a contributing factor, and many of the risk factors for chronic diseases could also be linked to oral health problems.

The Government spends a significant portion of its resources treating chronic diseases, which could have been better directed to other areas of health care, especially since the diseases are preventable and only require adjustments in individual lifestyles, Dr. Dixon stated.

"It is quite shocking to note that chronic non communicable diseases are responsible for about 53 percent of deaths in Jamaica. The Jamaican population must understand that treatment, though a necessary part of care, should not be seen as the only way to good health," she said.

Prevention must be the focus, ensuring that due care is taken to avoid the risk of contracting diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart and respiratory illnesses, thus reducing the number of complaints.

"This reduction will have to take oral health into consideration, as well as eating healthy, exercising, reducing alcohol intake, and quitting smoking," the Permanent Secretary’s message stressed.

The month-long activities to promote oral health, is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Health, Colgate Palmolive, UTech School of Public Health and the Jamaica Dental Association (JDA).

President of the JDA, Dr. Erica Veitch, said that Oral Health Month has always been at the forefront of the JDA’s annual public health efforts, as a lifetime of excellent oral health begins with good habits, starting with primary prevention.

While oral health primarily refers to dental health, it also means being free of chronic oral-facial pain conditions, oral and throat cancers, oral soft tissue lesions, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, and scores of other diseases and disorders that affect the oral, dental, and craniofacial tissues. These relate to speaking, smiling,  sighing and kissing, smelling, tasting, touching, chewing, and swallowing, as well as facial expressions and also provide protection against microbial infections and environmental insults.

 

By Garfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter