Health And Family

A few words on the importance of oral health

Joy Angelica Subido, Joy Angelica Subido, Karla Alindahao - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - It isn’t an exaggeration to say that a visit to the dentist was akin to torture in the early 1970s. At a time when reliable high-speed drills were somewhat a rarity in smaller cities like Baguio where I grew up, having a cavity cleaned and filled was literally a head-jarring experience.  As a child, I remember focusing on a poster that was strategically placed opposite the dentist’s chair. It said, “Without teeth there can be no chewing. Without chewing there can be no nutrition. Without nutrition, there can be no health. Without health, what is life?” This was drilled like a mantra in my head as I tried to block the screeching sound of the dental drill and persevere through the pain.

With the preponderance of laser equipment, intraoral cameras and other hi- tech dental gadgets that make dental appointments practically pain-free, this generation has it easy when it comes to visits to the dentist. Thus, it’s surprising when we are confronted with statistics. “Nine out of 10 Filipinos suffer from dental caries,” says Dr. Jocelyn Tan, president of the University of the Philippines Dental Alumni Association (UPDAA). “The Philippines has the second worst rate of decayed, missing and filled teeth in all of Asia.”

Dr. Vicente Medina III, dean of the UP College of Dentistry, reveals even more disturbing statistics. “More than seven out of 10 Filipinos have never been to the dentist and 98 percent of children from ages three to five have early childhood caries,” he says. “This just goes to show that oral health is not a priority in the Philippines.”  Thus, there is a need to increase awareness on the importance of oral health and integrate it into primary health systems. “Oral hygiene is part of overall health because the body is an entire system, ” says Dr. Medina. 

Tooth decay increases the risk for certain heart conditions. It contributes to increased morbidity and mortality in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and causes immune dysfunction, including defects in lymphocyte and monocyte function. Persons with tooth decay are prone to bacterial infections and malnutrition, while pregnant women with tooth decay have an increased risk for delivering underweight, pre-term babies.

 It is timely therefore that a program called “Smile Pilipinas” was launched by the UPDAA in partnership with global oral care brand Oral-B. “Our smiles are fundamental to our identity as Filipinos,” says Dr. Jocelyn Tan. “We need to establish a national framework of action for oral health, but oral care professionals cannot do it alone. We need the support and cooperation of everyone — the parents, the educators, and ordinary citizens. The Smile Pilipinas campaign seeks to increase awareness so that more Filipinos will be conscious about the importance of oral health. It hopes to bring oral health within reach of all Filipinos through increased financial support for dental health programs, upgrading of government dental health facilities, and expanded oral health education that will focus on disease prevention.

“This is a great opportunity for Oral-B to do something concrete about improving the quality of oral health in the Philippines,” says Suranjan Magesvaran, Procter & Gamble vice president, Home Products, Power and Oral Care, Asia , and Smile Pilipinas campaign partner. “The Filipinos’ smile is more than a smile. It demonstrates the resilience of a nation.”

Brushing the teeth is basic for good oral hygiene.  And as it is with all matters pertaining to health, prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to oral health.


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