By Shezna Shums
Tooth decay although preventable, is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. A recent oral health survey in Sri Lanka has shown that approximately 65 per cent of five to six year olds and approximately 40 per cent of 12 year olds have been affected by dental caries.
|From left: Director Education School Health Renuka Peiris; National Coordinator LLL Prof Prasad Amaratunga; President SLDA Eshani Fernando; President World Dental Federation Dr Roberto Vianna; Category Head Oral and Deo Unilever Sri Lanka Nilushi Jayatileke; Deputy Director General Dental Services, Ministry of Health Dr. J. M. W. Jayasundara Bandara; Secretary SLDA Dr. Vipula Wickramasinghe – Pic by Indraratna Balasuriya
About 75 per cent of 12 year olds suffer from gum diseases. Further the decayed, missing, filled, teeth index (DMFT) of five to six year old children was reported to be high as 3.6 per cent among 12 year olds in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Dental Association President Dr. Eshani Fernando said that proper oral health is part of general health and that there should be no distinction between the two.
She added that in Sri Lanka 65 per cent of five year olds suffer from dental problems where every five year old has on average 3.6 teeth that are decayed, missing or need to be filled.
“This partnership is aimed at developing the habit of brushing the teeth with toothpaste containing fluoride twice a day,” once in the morning and again in the night, she explained.
President FDI World Dental Federation Dr. Roberto Vianna said that the Federation has over one million members and that it played a big role together with the Sri Lanka Dental Association in signing this partnership to lead Sri Lanka towards proper oral health.
The good news is that there is scientific evidence to show that by simply brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, children can reduce cavities by up to 50 per cent as compared with just brushing only once a day.
With this in mind, brand Signal, from the global consumer products company Unilever, together with the Sri Lanka Dental Association (SLDA) has launched an intensive oral health project involving children in 500 schools in the Kurunegala District as part of phase II of the Live. Learn. Laugh (LLL) partnership project.
This project is one of more than 30 oral health improvement programmes taking place around the world as part of a special global partnership between Unilever and the FDI World Dental Federation.
After five years of partnership, a second phase was entered into in 2010 that sought to have a greater impact on oral health by focusing on one specific goal — working to measurably improve oral health through encouraging the practise of brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste among children.
President FDI Dr. Roberto Vianna said: “Oral disease is largely preventable, yet it causes pain and suffering on a massive scale, with the focused partnership goal of encouraging twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, I am confidant that we can measurably improve oral health around the world.”
Dr. Vianna was present at the launch of this initiative.
In Sri Lanka the project will be carried out in 500 schools in the Kurunegala District. Five student leaders and a teacher will be selected from each school to introduce the oral health promotion project into the existing ‘School Health Clubs,’ under the LLL partnership.
This project will provide basic knowledge and training on dental and oral diseases and also train students to be health educators.
The health clubs will also be provided with the necessary materials for the purpose of disseminating oral health messages and a training workshop on implementing and monitoring the project for dental work force in the district.
Meetings with the regular staff and parents will also be conducted to create awareness about the project.
Category Head of Oral Care and Deodorants Unilever Sri Lanka said: “We believe that businesses have a real responsibility to the people and communities they serve. Our plan for the growth of our organisation globally includes a target to help people improve their health and well being — oral disease is a very real issue everywhere.”
Professor Project Leader/National Coordinator of Live. Learn. Laugh, Professor Prasad Amaratunga said: “The LLL project is a classic example of how the public and private sectors can work together for the betterment of the people of our country, I have no doubt that the SLDA and Unilever Sri Lanka will work closely to regain the lost smiles of our school children through the LLL project.”
Unilever Oral Care is one of the world’s largest manufactures of branded toothpaste with over 40 years experience delivering quality oral care products. With a presence in more than 100 countries, Unilever brands such as Pepsodent, Signal, Close Up, AIM, Zhonghua and P/S help to improve oral health worldwide.
The main objective of the SLDA are the promotion of dental and the allied sciences and maintenance of the honour and the interests of the dental profession.
All professional organisations have a duty towards the community as well.
The SLDA has contributed towards improvement of oral health of the underprivileged people through its reaching out programme conducted in remote areas.