Experts attending the Kenya Dental Association Scientific Conference have insisted that oral health remains a major problem in many parts of Africa.
At the conference in Nairobi, experts praised recent programs and projects, which have helped to raise awareness of oral health and improve access to dental care; however, they also stressed that there was a still long way to go, as standards of oral health are very poor in countries across Africa.
One of the most serious problems is the lack of dentists and dental specialists; this makes seeing a dentist difficult and also means that professionals are under constant pressure. At the moment, demand for care far outweighs supply. There are only 700 registered dentists in Kenya and these professionals are responsible for the care of 40 million people—a ratio of around 1:57,000.
In order to try to reduce the prevalence of common oral health problems, including gum disease and tooth decay, dentists and volunteer programs are trying to teach people about brushing and rinsing their teeth and seeing a dentist for regular dental check-ups. Many programs are now being set up to target school children. This will be hugely beneficial in the future, as children who have a good daily oral hygiene routine are much less likely to need complex, expensive dental treatment when they are older. They will also be able to pass on information and good habits to future generations.