In India, bad teeth can be a matter of life and death. The reasons are many. In a country with a population of over 125 crores, maintaining proper health care is a real challenge, but dental or oral care is a neglected area. Prevalence of oral diseases and conditions such as dental caries, periodontal diseases, malocclusion, dental fluorosis, oral cancers and others are widespread, but our health system fails to overcome the crisis. Here, neither people nor the government is serious about dental health.
The oral health system in India is a neglected affair, people find it difficult to get proper treatment which often leads to serious conditions. The situation is worse in rural populations and people belonging to economically weaker sections. In this article, we strive to make an analysis of the condition of the oral health care system in India.
Factors responsible for the poor oral health system in India
- Inequitable distribution of dental professional
According to a report from Indian Dental Association, there is one dentist for every 6,500 people. The ratio is good, but the problem lies in the distribution of dental surgeons. In a country such as India, where more than 60% of the population resides in rural areas, over 80% of dental surgeons practice in urban areas. Thus, the rural population face problems in accessing dental care. To avail of dental treatment people in rural areas have to travel long distances.
In addition, the population in villages and remote areas come from economically weaker sections. Money also become a hindrance in the treatment. Most daily wagers have to spend the whole day travelling to reach dental surgeons in cities and stay there for treatment. This leads to extra expenditure. It becomes difficult for the rural population to afford dental help. For these reasons, access to oral healthcare has become difficult for many.
To overcome the problem, a balance in the distribution of dental surgeons in rural and urban areas should be made.
- Insufficient data
According to Dr Sushi Kadanakuppe from the department of public health dentistry at the Vokkaligara Samgha Dental College and Hospital, to make progress good policy is required and to make policy adequate data is required. But in India, we do not have adequate data on oral health. It was nearly 20 years ago that the last national oral health survey was conducted followed by a survey conducted in 2007, but it focused only on seven states. The sheer negligence in collecting recent data reveals that oral healthcare has received relatively little attention from the government.
- Inadequate dental curriculum
According to Dr K George Varghese, a member of the Dental Council of India (DCI), in India, the dental curriculum lacks treatment planning sessions to train dental students on how to plan treatment in a case that involves all specialties. Meaning students are taught to do clinical work for a particular situation but are not trained to handle cases that involve multiple problems. In most cases, once a specific treatment is completed, the students do not again see the same patient analyze the success or failure of the treatment.
- Oral healthcare is not included in the general healthcare system
Since its Independence, India has launched several successful health programmes in response to the most pressing health issues of the time. One of the first programmes that were formulated focused on maternal and infant mortality and therefore, the government focused on improving the nutrition and healthcare of women and children. After this, the healthcare system expanded its focus to life-threatening infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Programme for the prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and stroke is launched.
However, oral ailments and diseases are treated separately from general medicine and are not given due importance. But if an awareness of the fact that many oral health problems are linked to general health is spread, then there is a possibility that dental healthcare would be taken seriously.
Thus, there is a lack of seriousness toward the oral healthcare system. The need of the hour is to take the necessary steps to improve the oral and dental healthcare system, along with increasing public awareness of the importance of dental diseases and their timely treatment.
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