Oral health awareness campaign launched in Kavango East Region
The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, Hon. Dr Ester Muinjangue officially launched the 2023 Oral Health Awareness Week campaign this week in Rundu, Kavango East Region, under the theme “Be proud of your mouth” to improve oral health habits.
On the occasion, Muinjangue stated that the region’s Directorate for Health and Social Welfare Services has undertaken several initiatives focused on ensuring that the community in that region has access to oral health services.
The most important of these initiatives was receiving, at their request, a state-of-the-art mobile dental clinic from the National level, which the Directorate has been utilizing to conduct outreach services even to the most remote places such as Ncaute, she remarked.
The Directorate is providing outreach oral health services to orphanages, correctional facilities, Nyangana and Andara District Hospitals, and recently repurposed the Covid-19 Isolation Facility at Andara District Hospital to provide oral health services, which were initially provided at Shadikongoro Clinic. These services are part of the region’s efforts to address the growing oral health needs.
“Oral health is the window to our overall health. It is not merely about having a beautiful smile; it is rather a cornerstone of our health and quality of life. The state of our teeth and gums directly impacts our ability to eat, speak, and maintain our overall health. Despite this, oral health is an area that is often overlooked, with many individuals unaware of its profound influence on our daily lives. It is, without a doubt, a silent but significant health burden that affects countless lives,” the Deputy Minister said at the occasion.
An unhealthy diet high in sugar, smoking, harmful alcohol use, poor hygiene, and other social determinants, according to Muinjangue, all contribute to oral diseases.
“These are the same factors also responsible for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). As such, there is a unique opportunity to prioritize oral health as a means to contribute directly to reducing NCDs and their associated risk factors.”
Moreover, oral health problems are considered to be largely preventable with proper oral hygiene, although their prevalence remains high. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Oral Health Status Report, oral disease affects around 3.5 billion people worldwide.
Muinjangue stated that over 480 million people in Africa suffer from oral diseases like dental caries, periodontal disease, and tooth loss, even though they are preventable. “The burden of oral diseases reflects significant inequalities, with marginalized populations disproportionately impacted,” she said.
She also referred to the Noma disease, underscoring that it destroys the mouths and faces of “mostly” young children, and if left untreated, it is fatal in 90% of these cases. A marker of extreme poverty, it is primarily found in Sub-Saharan Africa, she added.
Besides, the Deputy Minister also commended the Kavango East Regional Directorate for joining the rest of the country in the commemoration of the annual Oral Health Day.
Muinjangue further emphasized the importance of achieving universal coverage in oral health by focusing on preventive measures, accessible dental care, and integration of oral health. Preventive measures, she said, involve investing in education and awareness programmes to promote proper oral hygiene from a young age.
“Every citizen, regardless of their socio-economic circumstance, should enjoy equitable access to oral health care. Oral health cannot exist in isolation and must be integrated into the broader healthcare system for seamless access. In addition, education and empowerment are also crucial, as knowledge is power and regular dental checkups are essential.”
“Access to dental care, particularly in underserved communities, is crucial, as is the need to improve dental infrastructure and workforce,” she added.