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Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry Official publication of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?

Department of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Sharad Pawar Dental College, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication25-Feb-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sudhindra M Baliga
Department of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Sharad Pawar Dental College, Wardha, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JISPPD.JISPPD_18_19

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How to cite this article:
Baliga SM. Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2019;37:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Baliga SM. Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Dec 2];37:1-2. Available from: http://www.jisppd.com/text.asp?2019/37/1/1/252850

The effect of untreated dental caries on the development and health of children often remains overlooked. Children with poor oral conditions are three times more likely to remain absent in schools due to dental pain and also perform poorly in studies. Oral diseases affect the quality of life of children and account for pain, impaired aesthetics, recurrent infections, eating troubles, sleeping difficulties, emergency visits to dentists and hospitals, poor ability to learn, insufficient nutrition, and improper growth and development. Furthermore, treating dental caries in children is expensive and requires time and effort.

Access to oral health-care services implies the ability of an individual to obtain dental care, recognizing and addressing the unique barriers encountered by an individual seeking dental care, including the patient's perceived need for care, oral health literacy, dentist and dental team distribution, financial circumstances, special needs, transportation, location, language, cultural preferences, and other factors influencing entry into the dental care system. Oral health literacy implies the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic oral health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions. In this regard, child oral health-care literacy and access is essential to promoting and maintaining overall health and well-being. When parents are able to access oral health care, their children are more likely to receive basic preventive services and education on personal behaviors. Children are also more likely to have oral diseases detected in the earlier stages and obtain restorative care as needed. In contrast, lack of access to child oral health care can result in delayed diagnosis and rampant dental decay.

Resolving the access to and utilization of child oral health-care issues in India requires alliance among professional organizations, governments, and community organizations and private entities. This partnership must attempt to focus on child oral health literacy, incentives to promote dentistry and dental teams in underserved areas with special health-care needs and provision of volunteer services.

Although in India other health conditions frequently draw attention in health policy and health services discussions, oral health issues seldom rise to the top of the national health and health policy agenda. As a result, oral health concerns have persisted as a major, largely preventable, health problem across the life span of an individual.

The proposed solutions to the access to and the utilization of oral health-care issues include, but are not limited to:

  1. Introducing the oral health education component for public schools' health curriculums, and providing review services to primary and secondary school textbook publishers
  2. Specifying oral health examination for 1-year-old to expedite screening and device oral health recommendations for children and their mothers/require mandatory annual dental examinations for children entering school
  3. Working with community leaders to break down cultural barriers
  4. Delivering oral health information in vernacular language through multiple community conduits
  5. Regular promotion and press releases on issues of interest to help mass media increase the parents'/consumer's awareness of oral health issues
  6. Hosting screening programs for children across India with media coverage
  7. Hosting events at annual meetings to answer patient inquiries about oral health
  8. Working with the pediatric health societies and implementing memorandum of understanding to provide a framework for cooperation for promoting the oral health objectives with a focus on access to care, training of workforce, and the education of the public, the profession of pediatric dentistry, and policymakers
  9. Offering scholarships to dental students in exchange for committing to serve in an underserved area
  10. Take steps to facilitate effective compliance with government-funded dental care programs to achieve optimum oral health outcomes for indigent populations
  11. Establish alternative oral health-care delivery service units and arrange for transportation
  12. Provide mobile and portable dental units to serve the underserved
  13. Identify educational resources for dentists on how to provide care to pediatric and special needs patients and increase dentist participation
  14. Provide information to dentists and their staffs on cultural diversity issues which will help them reduce or eliminate barriers to clear communication and enhance understanding of treatment and treatment options
  15. Increase funding for oral health monitoring and surveillance programs for children, as well as for the development and promotion of a preventive infrastructure.

Thus, oral health literacy must be a cornerstone of improving utilization of oral health care by underserved populations. Professional organizations such as the ISPPD actively promote publicly available, culturally relevant literature and other means to increase oral health literacy among underserved populations and improve access to child oral health care. However, true advances in oral health literacy must be driven by collaboration between professional organizations, community organizations and government entities. I wish that 2019 will see an increase in oral health literacy and access through combined efforts from ISPPD and government organizations toward a smiling future for children across the country. Happy New Year and Seasons Greetings!

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