Despite of being a very large and populous continent, the African continent is still deprived of basic medical and dental facilities. According to the World Dental Federation, there is only dentist available for about 150,000 people. Unfortunately this condition is even worse in the far flung, least developed and rural areas of the continent. It has been estimated that about 70% of the African people are suffering from various types of orofacial diseases, which signifies the alarming nature of the situation of oral and general health among African people, and demands immediate and effective steps to find a solution and put an end to the misery of the inhabitants of this continent.
What Are the Oral Health Problems Faced by African People?
The most common dental problems observed among the African population are dental caries and periodontal problems. However, this is merely a generalization, and each African community faces unique dental problems, based on the socioeconomic standards, lifestyle and local environment. Some of the problems faced by the low socio-economic communities in Africa, according to severity, are:
- Cancrum Oris (Noma)
- Acute Necrotizing Gingivitis
- Oral Cancer
- Oral effects of HIV/AIDS
- Facial Trauma
- Dental Caries
Determinants of Dental Health Problems in Africa
- In availability of Qualified Oral Health Personnel – there is a scarcity of qualified dentists in Africa, and those who are present, prefer to work in the urban and developed, thereby keeping the rural population devoid of dental care
- Poverty – due to extreme poverty in the continent and the high cost of dental treatment, most people are unable to afford basic and dental healthcare facilities. In addition, most dental personnel prefer to work in the private sector which provides better salaries and benefits. As a result, the number of dentists available in government healthcare setup is insufficient to cater for the needs of the people.
- Lack of Awareness – unfortunately, most people in Africa are unaware of the importance of looking after their oral hygiene, and the direct role of dental health on the overall physical health. As a result, very less importance is given to oral hygiene maintenance, resulting in an increased problems related to the orofacial region.
- Logistic Problems – due to a poor transportation infrastructure and inadequacy of logistic support provided to the healthcare personnel, far lying regions and remote areas remain deprived of even dental care facilities.
- Development of National Oral Healthcare Plan – unfortunately, there is no national objective in place regarding oral healthcare. Hence, a unified National action plan should be implemented, which should be focused at providing quality dental services to the rural and less developed communities.
- Financial Aid – due to extreme poverty in Africa, the World Health Organization, other non-governmental organizations and developed nations should step forwards and allocate funds for improving oral health faculties in Africa.
- Inculcating Awareness Among Population – the efforts of Government as well as non-governmental organizations in uplifting dental healthcare cannot bear fruit, unless the people are made to realize the importance of looking after their dental health. Hence, awareness should be spread among people, so that more people seek the public dental facilities.
- Continued Education of Dental Personnel – the dental healthcare personnel should be well trained and must be abreast with the current trends in dentistry employed throughout the world, so that they are better equipped in helping the African people overcoming their dental problems.
It is the need of the hour to focus on provision of dental healthcare facilities to the African population, and that too on emergency basis. This is because, not only poor oral health can lead to development of various dental problems, but also can also effect the overall wellbeing of a community. Every human on this planet deserves to be entitled to basic healthcare facilities including toilets.