The Nigerian Dental Association has called for the review of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) policy to include dental issues.
Its President, Dr Evelyn Eshikena, made the call in an interview on Tuesday in Lagos.
According to her, the NHIS should include preventive oral healthcare and oral health promotion as primary healthcare services, noting that the policy would improve oral healthcare.
Eshikena spoke on commemoration of the 2019 World Oral Health Day marked annually on March 20.
Its theme is: “ Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health.“
She said: “ In the NHIS, dentists are classified as secondary providers and general physicians are saddled with the responsibility of first, seeing dental patients and then make referrals. This results in a lot of time being wasted for both the patient and the physician and probably loss of interest by the patient. There is a strong connection between oral health and general (systemic) health, which needs to be captured in the NHIS policy. An important preventive oral healthcare procedure, scaling and polishing, should be well captured by the scheme.
“Primary healthcare plays an important role in ensuring that basic health issues are addressed when still possible and prevent an escalation into complications that become more costly to treat or even irreversible.
“The basic package of oral care, as enshrined in the oral health policy, has the following components: Oral Urgent Treatment, Affordable Fluoride Toothpaste and Atraumatic Restorative Treatment.
“As mentioned earlier, oral healthcare services need to be available at the primary health centres to ensure a wider reach and be more accessible.“
The president said that oral health awareness was still very low in the country, adding that the current practices were reactionary in general, rather than preventive.
She urged people to visit the dentist only when they were having very obvious problem.
“The major challenge with oral healthcare in Nigeria is the low awareness level.
“Due to low level of awareness, people are not informed about steps to take, both in preventing as well as treatment of oral diseases, resulting in under utilisation of oral health facilities and late presentation at the clinic with resultant complications.
“Also, dental facilities are grossly inadequate, with about 80 per cent in urban areas, where only about 30 per cent of the population resides and less in rural areas where majority reside.
“Though, government recognises oral health as a component of primary healthcare (PHC), it has yet to be integrated into the PHC programmes in the country,’’ association’s president said.
Eshikena said this would improve access to oral healthcare, especially for rural dwellers.
“The association advocates the integration of oral healthcare into primary health care programs and the establishment of one dental clinic in each local government area in the country,“ she said.
Eshikena urged people to take their oral health seriously to ensure that their teeth lasted a life-time.
According to her, good oral hygiene ensures healthy and fresh breath; teeth free from food debris, and healthy gums without bleeding or pain when brushing.
“The enamel of the teeth is the hardest tissue in the body and can be protected from decay by good oral healthcare.
“Parents and teachers need to teach their children the practice of good oral healthcare.
“Early signs of what may potentially become a serious ailment can be identified by the dentist, hence the need for proper attention to be paid to good oral healthcare by all stakeholders.
“People should ensure a healthy routine of brushing in the morning and before bed-time, floss to prevent debris from clogging the teeth where toothbrush cannot access.
“Also, ensure a healthy diet, including low carbohydrate, fruits and vegetable consumption; visit to the dentist at least twice a year for checkup and routine scaling and polishing,“ she said.