22 July 2024

WOHD: Empowering communities through dental wellness initiatives


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By: Prof. Dr. Zamri Radzi

Malaysia is celebrating World Oral Health Day 2024 standing at the forefront of promoting dental wellness through multifaceted initiatives and collaborative efforts. The government has initiated community-based oral health programs giving equal emphasis for both urban and rural communities. These programs aim to raise awareness about the importance of oral hygiene and provide dental services accessible to all Malaysians.

A comprehensive educational campaign that integrates dental health education to empower the younger generation with lifelong habits for maintaining optimal oral health complements the initiative. Furthermore, the Malaysian government offers tax exemptions of up to RM1,000 for dental treatment and assessment. This will not only ease the financial burden on individuals seeking dental care but also incentivizing more people to prioritize their oral health.

As part of this year’s World Oral Health Day, the Malaysian Dental Deans’ Council is hosting an informative WOHD Talk Series from 20th to 22nd March 2024, covering various topics of dental health issues. Featuring expertise from all 13 Dental Faculties in Malaysia, the WOHS talk series will cover the correlation between oral health and general well-being, as well as specialized care for different demographics including children, adolescents, and the elderly. Expert insights from pediatric dentists, orthodontists, restorative dentists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and dental public health specialists will be shared, enlightening audiences on preventive measures and the role of various dental specialties.

Through these endeavours, Malaysia reiterates its commitment to fostering a healthier population with enhanced access to essential dental services and a steadfast dedication to promoting oral health and overall well-being. In addition to the Government initiatives, the necessity to delve deeper into the importance of oral health and its far-reaching impacts is imperative.

Oral health is not just about having a bright smile; it plays a fundamental role in overall well-being. Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for preventing a range of dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss, which can cause pain and discomfort, as well as affect one’s ability to eat and speak comfortably.

Maintenance of oral health is a lifelong endeavor – an integral part of various stages of life from infancy to old age. Good oral hygiene habits early in life are essential for children’s dental development and overall health. Teaching children proper brushing techniques, limiting sugary snacks and drinks, and scheduling regular dental check-ups can prevent dental issues and set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Similarly, maintaining oral health during pregnancy is crucial, as hormonal changes can increase the risk of gum disease and other dental problems, which may affect both maternal and foetal health. Additionally, as individuals age, they may face unique oral health challenges, such as dry mouth, gum recession, and tooth decay, underscoring the importance of continued oral care throughout adulthood and into old age.

More importantly, poor oral health has been linked to systemic conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Poor oral hygiene can contribute to the development and progression of systemic diseases. Individuals with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, and uncontrolled diabetes can worsen oral health problems. Moreover, respiratory infections such as pneumonia have been linked to poor oral health, particularly in vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Therefore, prioritizing oral health through regular brushing, flossing, dental check-ups, preventive measures, and healthy lifestyle habits not only fosters a healthy mouth but also supports overall health and longevity.

By recognizing the significance of oral health across the lifespan and implementing comprehensive strategies to promote it, societies can ensure better overall health outcomes and improve the quality of life for all individuals.

The author is the Dean, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya, and Chairman of Dental Deans Malaysia. He may be reached at zamrir@um.edu.my