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News Middle East

Students of GEMS Academy Silicon Oasis during WOHD 2017
0 Comments Apr 17, 2017 | News Middle East

Interview: " Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease"

Post a comment by Dental Tribune MEA / CAPPmea

Dental Tribune MEA / CAPP had the pleasure to interview Dr Shiamaa Shihab Ahmed Al Mashhadani from Dental Services Department at Dubai Health Authority (DHA) about World Oral Health Day 2017.

DTMEA/CAPPmea: Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Dr Shiamaa Al Mashhadani: I have been working at DHA for the past 6 years. I was involved in the planning and implementation of the first oral health survey for the Emirate of Dubai. After establishing a baseline for the level of oral health in Dubai, the next step was to set up a preventive program that would help in improving the level of oral health among the population of Dubai. I am very passionate about enhancing the level of oral health, especially among the students of Dubai and my dream is a starting point to make Dubai the number one city in the region with caries-free students.

You have been working on the school prevention program for already 4 years. Could you please tell us more about it and what exactly is the idea?
Oral health care is a critical component of good health. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease: five times more common than asthma. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain and suffering, affecting a child’s ability to eat, speak, and focus at school, resulting in absenteeism and affecting the ability to learn and to develop physically and psychologically.

Dubai Smiles Healthy is the first national preventive and community-based program implemented in the Emirate of Dubai designed to improve the oral health of children in Dubai. It is adapted from the Childsmile program of NHS Scotland and follows the World Health Organization recommendations for preventive care.

It was based on the screening program conducted in 2013 in Dubai. “Dubai Smiles Healthy” (DSH) includes national and international requirements for better preventive care and overall wellbeing and happiness of the community and serves the Dubai Health Authority’s vision to have a healthy and happy community.

It has three main components:
Dubai Smiles Healthy - School Practice Program
Preschools and Schools provide an important base to promote oral health as they reach large numbers of students who pass on these messages to their families. Schools can make a substantial contribution to a student’s health and well-being. This has been increasingly recognised by many international initiatives including those from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and UNESCO. This means that the oral health messages reinforced in schools will eventually reach the whole community. The early years of a child’s life is the most influential time to reinforce habits and attitudes, therefore targeting the students at this age with proper oral health habits will have a lifelong effect. They will be healthier and more productive individuals in their community, having better quality of life with a potential to long term cost saving.

Implementation of the school dental preventive visits
• Mobile dental vans visit the schools according to a schedule during the school calendar year, to carry out dental screening.
• School oral health screenings provide parents with information about their children’s oral health and the importance of regular dental treatment.
• School screening data identifies areas with high levels of dental disease. Preventive interventions can be implemented in these targeted areas to improve the oral health of Dubai school children.

Dubai Smiles Health - School Nurse Training Program
The school nurse training program is a national initiative of Dubai Smiles Healthy preventive program. It aims at creating a school nurse workforce with the competencies to prioritise oral disease prevention and oral health promotion. The overarching goal of this training is to create an oral health educational infrastructure for the school nursing profession that empowers the nurses in reducing oral diseases across Dubai schools.

Dubai Smiles Healthy - Child Health Program
Dental hygienists lead these sessions after they undergo proper training and educational sessions. There are set guidelines that the hygienists must follow to have a unified message sent to the public.

Parent education on proper oral health is the essence of the sessions. They attend with their children from the age of 6-8 weeks. Education on how to care for oral health, healthy diets and lifestyle are all part of this step. From six months of age, dental hygienists provide regular checkups and fluoride application for these children. The role of the hygienist includes: oral health advice (e.g. oral habits, diet, etc...), tooth brushing instructions and regular dental checkups from the age of 18 months.

What was the focus of celebrating WOHD on 20th of March at GEMS Wellington College?
In line with this year’s World Oral Health Day theme: “Live Mouth Smart” Live Mouth Smart speaks to you about the decisions you can take to safeguard your own and your family’s oral health so you can enjoy a healthy mouth throughout life. It is time to acknowledge that the mouth plays a vital role for our physical and psychological health and how Dubai Smiles Healthy can reinforce and enhance the level of oral health and raise the awareness of the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.

The focus this year was to emphasis on the link between general health and oral health. Can you tell us what is the Dubai Smiles Healthy Award about?
The Dubai Smiles Healthy Award was set up to achieve Dubai Health Authority’s (DHA) 2021 strategy to raise awareness of oral health, prevention and screening in line with the goal of the DHA Dental Services Department to reduce caries and improve general oral health levels amongst students in Dubai.

As part of the program, the DHA, in cooperation with the private sector, will visit schools to carry out dental checks on students. The purpose of the screening, which will be done at the beginning and after the Dubai Smiles Healthy Brushing Challenge finishes, is to determine if the oral hygiene level has improved.

Do you think there is enough awareness among students in Dubai on oral health, or overall well-being?
No, we are just starting our first steps, a recent pilot questionnaire answered by 580 mothers asking about their knowledge of oral hygiene showed that 67% of their children were not consistent in brushing their teeth. We must reinforce good oral health habits, emphasising tooth brushing and a proper healthy diet. Homes, schools and the public media should work hand in hand to help raise the awareness to eliminate this silent epidemic.

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