Delegates at the Ninth Annual Spring Dental Conference of the Caribbean Dental Program listen attentively to Acting Minister of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford Garner’s speech. (A. Miller/BGIS)

The burden of oral diseases and other chronic illnesses can be decreased simultaneously by addressing common risk factors, such as tobacco use and unhealthy diet.????

This key message was issued last Wednesday, as the Ninth Annual Spring Dental Conference of the Caribbean Dental Program opened at the Accra Beach Hotel.

Acting Minister of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford Garner, said:???? "Decreased intake of sugars and well-balanced nutrition prevent tooth decay and premature tooth loss."?? She added that tobacco cessation and decreased alcohol consumption could also reduce the risk for oral cancers, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.

"By using these prevention strategies, the high cost of dental treatments can be reduced," the Acting Health Minister stressed.

She pointed out that the World Health Organisation (WHO), in a recent report, indicated that despite great achievements in the oral health of populations globally, problems still remained in many communities all over the world. And, she noted that this was particularly evident among under-privileged groups in developed and developing countries such as the Caribbean. ??

While stating that dental caries and periodontal diseases had historically been considered the most significant global oral health burden, the Senator added: "Recent information also indicates that dental caries present a major oral health challenge in most industrialised countries, affecting 60-90 per cent of school children and the vast majority of adults.

"Given the extent of the problem, oral diseases are a major public health concern. Their impact on individuals and communities, as a result of pain and suffering, impairment of function and reduced quality of life, is considerable."

Meanwhile, Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Dr. Alafia Samuels, said that such dental risk factors as periodontitis doubled the risk for cardiovascular diseases and it was also associated with elevated markers of systemic inflammation. She pointed to inflammation as the primary cause of the whole chronic disease genesis.

Dr. Samuels stated, "Periodontitis is definitely a risk factor which I know you are seeing in your practices. Tooth loss causes altered dietary intake, which is an additional risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a patient with periodontitis is a challenged individual because the risks are bacterial and viral infections, inflammation, genetic markers, health, social and economic; and all of these are similar risk factors."

Urging dental practitioners to consider the relationship between oral health and non-communicable diseases, she explained, "So when you see a patient you would recognise that that patient is at higher risk for cardiovascular disease."


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