Oral health= Overall health
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Dental diseases are a significant public health burden in India as well as across the globe. WHO recognizes the oral health as an integral part of general health. The consequences of widespread poor oral health can be seen on the personal, population, and health systems level, as caries and periodontal disease deteriorates the individual health and wellbeing, decrease economic productivity, and act as significant risk factors for other systemic health ailments. In most of the developing countries including India, there is a limited access to oral health care services, as a result teeth are often left untreated or are extracted because of pain or discomfort. The growing incidence of some chronic diseases like diabetes can further have a negative impact on oral health. Extensive research in public health has shown that a number of individual, professional, and community preventive measures are effective in preventing most oral diseases.
In developing countries, there is a vast difference in oral health status between urban and rural populations, with enormous and widening disparities in access to quality care, predominantly in rural areas. The sad thing is that oral health education and indeed even emergency dentistry are low on the list of priorities when it comes to health care in developing countries. This is further compounded by most countries choosing to use the little money they do have for oral health on traditional approaches of employing a very small number of fully trained dentists along with the complex equipment and expensive materials. This makes even simple treatment inaccessible to the vast majority of the population.
There are approximately 300 dental colleges in India, and annually 25,000 graduates pass out including 5000 specialists. Moreover, as per the latest statistics, there is a concentration of only 10% of dentists where approximately 70% of the Indian population resides (rural areas) and 90% of concentration of dental professionals where only 30% of population resides (urban areas). There is plenty of dental manpower available yet the utilization of oral health care services is low. The reason for the low utilization of health care services is the high cost involved thereby widening the oral health differences across the social economic classes. Moreover, the average salary for a fresh graduate in the private sector is paid much less as compared to the government sector and job opportunities are few in the government sector. India has neither an oral health policy nor a planned oral health care delivery system. The blueprint of the National Oral Health Policy that was drafted at the 4th Conference of Central Council of Health And Family Welfare in 1995 at New Delhi aimed at developing an efficient oral health care delivery mechanism to address the oral health needs of its countrymen still remains as a draft since last 15 years due to very poorly motivated policy makers.
Government has the ultimate responsibility of the health of its citizens. It is clear from the above discussion that India strongly needs an oral health policy that can be formulated on the basis of discussed aspects. In India, policy makers have not included oral health in public health policies, a change that could have led to improvement in the differences in health status of urban and rural population. Like in developed and few developing countries, oral health deserves to be included in family health policies. Local efforts may also be needed to engage more private practitioners incase of underserved. It is important to launch preventive, curative, and educational oral health care programs integrated into the existing system utilizing the existing health and educational infrastructure in the rural, urban, and deprived areas. Family, that is, parental attitudes toward the importance of oral hygiene, plays a major role in the preservation of healthy children's teeth. Oral health education can be imparted to parents involving health workers, teachers in order to raise their awareness regarding importance of oral health
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