My Dental Plan: Oral Health Scenario In India: Challenges And Solutions

Harminder Singh Multani, CEOA mere toothache! This is how most people in India perceive issues pertaining to dental health. However, it is well-researched fact that oral and dental health are an integral part of the overall well being of any individual. It is thus not surprising to note that a whopping 95% of adults suffer from gum diseases. Also, it is not just adults in the country that are battling with tooth and gum issues. It is pegged that every3 out of 5 school-going children also experience dental decay and eventually severe pain.

Along with this, India is leading in oral cancer occurrences in the world. With a high number of tobacco consumers and negligible oral hygiene maintenance, oral health status is highly endangered in the country.

The cancerous conditions witnessed in India have been unique to those found in the rest of the world. Due to the highest consumption of smokeless tobacco like beedis, gutkha, khaini, etc. which is predominantly seen in the Indian subcontinent, oral lesions such as oral submucous fibrosis, and leukoplakia are on the rise.

Most people are not aware but oral health is one of the most crucial shields against deadly diseases across the world. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and associated complications, oral care has proven to be of utmost importance.

However, a huge disconnect between the Indian population and dental care emerges out of the insufficient strength of dental professionals. Hardly 2.73 lakh dentists are responsible for providing dental care to 1.3 billion Indians. Such imbalance makes it difficult to provide adequate access to primary dental health services at all times.

Furthermore, 72% of the Indian population resides in rural India where primary access to dental care still seems like a far-fetched thought. Due to the extreme shortage of dental job opportunities in both public and private sectors, and the unavailability of basic amenities in the villages, dentists prefer settling down in urban areas.

Unfortunately, there is merely 1 dentist for every 1,50,000 people in rural areas and 1 in every 10,000 people in urban areas. The huge gap between the avail-ability of dentists to cater to the Indian population can be understood from these wide differences.

Adding to it, the lack of quality checks on dental clinics and hospitals across the country encourages the use of sub-standard, poor quality dental materials and improper sterilisation protocols to save time and generate higher profits.

Moreover, patients have been struggling to find optimum quality
dental treatment at reasonable prices and hence, even in pain patients sometimes have tohop from clinic to clinic to get the treatment they seek at a price that does not cost a fortune.

Most importantly, the lack of dental awareness and negligence towards early dental care has led the Indian population to approach a dentist only when they are in severe discomfort or pain. Such ignorance has resulted in every second Indian suffering from a dental issue with or without knowing and in most cases losing their teeth early in life.

For this, chronic dental problems such as periodontitis, completely damaged tooth portion commonly known as root stumps, complete loss of teeth, etc. have become extremely common.

Wellness plans for oral care
Another challenge to good oral health in India, is the lack of dental insurance facilities in the mainstream health insurance domain. As much as health insurance and related advantages have seen a surge in the past decade, oral care still remains an untouched topic among them.

Neglected oral health further leads to serious dental complications that decrease the quality of life of an in-dividual, lowers the appetite, hampers productivity and confidence in the professional sphere, and affects mental health in multiple ways.

Furthermore, poor oral health is known to be linked with more than 120 systemic diseases that are life-threatening. Diseases like bacterial pneumonia, subacute endocarditis, heart blockages, and even pre-term pregnancies have their roots connected to poor oral hygiene.

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Such challenges have prevailed in the Indian dental industry for decades now. However, with adequate attention, these problems can be dealt with.

Taking care of your teeth
1) Brushing, Flossing and gargles
To begin with, an increase in dental awareness, incorporation of simpleoral hygiene practices such as brushing twice a day, flossing and tongue cleaning every day, gargles and mouthwash, have effectively reduced the viral load and incidence of dental ailments among masses.

2) Pay a visit to your dentist
Basic changes in lifestyle by visiting a dentist twice a year, opting for professional dental cleanings, and religiously paying attention to early signs of dental problems will reduce a fair share of dental health atrocities in the country.

With the evolution of teledentistry, patients can now connect with dental experts from all across India over audio or video calls in a hassle-free manner. Such helpful technologies during these tough times must be promoted to ensure wide access to the larger population from the comfort of their homes.

3) No to Sugar
Due to the gradual switch towards refined and high in sugar foods in our daily diet, the ability of our teeth to self cleanse and repair has reduced significantly. Making conscious changes in the diet and replacing the modern, refined, soft food items with fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains can augment dental health status among individuals.

A strict check on dental clinics and hospitals by organisations and dental councils to regulate the price and quality of dental treatment can eventually reduce the hesitation of patients towards getting dental treatment by multitudes. Apart from this, there should be a constant review of sanitisation, dental equipment and protocols followed by dentists

Appropriate dental care begins at home. A conscious change in our attitude and open approach to receive and provide regular, safe and high-quality dental care can bridge the gaps between oral health and its maintenance in India.