Oral diseases remain a major public health problem in South Africa because of their high prevalence, severity, and impact on the individual quality of life.
Thus a very important, but often underrated part of everyday life – oral health – comes under the spotlight during September as that month is National Oral Health Month. The aim of the commemoratory month is to create awareness in communities of the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy mouth and to promote good oral health practices, in order to minimise the risk of future dental problems.
The Wits Community Dentistry Team from the School of Oral Health, in commemorating National Oral Health Month identified a special needs school, Forest Town School in Parkview, Johannesburg, as its target school for this year where it created awareness amongst the pupils.
Forest Town School is a renowned institution which caters for children with all disabilities such as cerebral palsy, brain injuries and epilepsy providing that their needs can be met within the school situation. The Forest Town School, established in 1948 by a small group of parents who needed education, care and treatment for their children with cerebral palsy, is today known for exchanging knowledge with professionals worldwide.
National Oral Health Day was celebrated on 12 September 2012, with the pupils of Forest Town School. The nearly 300 children were treated to singing, dancing, a puppet show and some oral health aids such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, stickers and brushing timers, all in the name of promoting oral health!
“Dentistry is one of the most expensive services to deliver and requires extensive resources especially for children with special needs as even the most basic types of treatment often need to be done under general anaesthesia. Our country simply does not have the resources to cope with the huge burden of disease – hence governments’ focus on prevention and oral health promotion to reduce the incidence and prevalence of oral diseases,” says Prof. Jeff Yengopal, Head of the Department of Community Dentistry at Wits University.
Yengopal says tooth decay requires a number of factors to work together to produce caries, otherwise known as rotten teeth. “If one controls for just one of these factors by, for example, daily cleaning of the mouth then the chances of tooth decay is significantly reduced. Hence, there are a number of simple and cheap interventions available to bring down the huge caries burden found in our communities. A dedicated oral health month seeks to create awareness in communities of the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy mouth. Oral health is thus an integral part of general health,” says Yengopal.
To encourage the holistic and integrated approach to health care, this year’s event was collaboration between the Wits Dental School, the Gauteng Department of Health, the Department of Education, and the Department of Sports and Recreation, whereby the Department of Sport and Recreation treated the children to some sporting kits and gears.
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