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General News of Tuesday, 4 July 2006

Source: GNA

Health Ministry developing National Oral Health Policy

Accra, July 4, GNA - The Ministry of Health is developing a National Oral Health Policy to direct the provision of oral health services and oral health development in Ghana.

The policy would also address issues of oral health education, information, communication, infection prevention and control to support and promote the oral health of the people.

Dr David Oppong Mensah, Chief Dentist Officer of the Ministry of Health, said this when he took his turn on the Ghana Health Service's monthly Health Promotion talk on the theme: "The Benefits of Fluorides in Oral Health."

He said the oral status of the Ghanaian population was the not the best and there was the need to intensify efforts in addressing the situation.

He explained that in Ghana, three out of every 10 school children had tooth decay, 95 per cent of these children had poor oral hygiene, eight out of 10 adults have chronic gum diseases and its associated bad breath and only 500,000 Ghanaians visit a dentist once in a year. Dr Oppon-Mensah noted that the oral health situation in the country did not help to promote good health for the population, explaining that the inadequate number of dentists coupled with low coverage of services, low utilisation of limited services and poor oral hygiene especially among children were contributory factors. The Dental Surgeon to Patient Ratio is 1:128,000, which according to the Association was quite a distance from the World Health Organisation recommended ratio of 1: 80,000 putting the 140 registered Ghanaian dental surgeons under immense pressure and a strain on available facilities.

The Chief Dentist Officer said the country had low level of fluoride in drinking water 96 less than 0.1ppm - far below the World Health Organisation recommendation of 1.0ppm. He said there were few areas in the country like Bongo District in the Upper East Region where there was excessive fluoride in their water, which he described as toxic.

He stressed the need for Ghanaians to use toothpaste that contained fluoride, brush the teeth twice daily and should not rinse the mouth with water after brushing "so the fluoride will perform it own work on the teeth and the gum".

He said the Ministry was establishing new dental facilities and equipping existing ones with the requisite manpower and logistics to improve access.

Mr Awuah Siaw, Head of Institutional Care of the Ministry, who chaired the function, said oral health care should begin from home and asked mothers to supervise their children when they were brushing their teeth.

He urged stakeholders to embark on an aggressive awareness campaign on oral hygiene since it was clear that people lacked knowledge on how to keep their teeth clean.