Buoyed by the initial response from secondary schools and students to its pilot project in Oral Health Education, the Ministry of Health and Wellness is seeking to maintain this momentum as it continues to roll out the initiative during this term.
Between November and December last year, some 1,200 third formers from across eight public secondary schools received dental check-ups and were educated on proper dental health practices as part of an intervention currently being carried out in the 21 Government secondary schools. This term, the Ministry’s dental team expects to screen and educate a similar number of students from at least eight more schools.
The Ministry-driven programme, which is seeking to reach approximately 3500 students by December 2019, has been made possible with financial support from the Massy Foundation with assistance from Colgate, which donated the oral care kits for the first term.
Senior dental health officer, Dr. Michelle Codrington, who is coordinating the project, said last term’s exercise went well for the dental team, which comprised auxiliary dental officers (ADOs), dental surgery assistants (DSAs), a senior dental officer, and other dentists who operate on a part-time basis.
“The support from the schools was good and we were welcomed and ably assisted by the year heads, guidance counsellors, class and subject teachers, in organizing and managing the groups. In addition, the models and teaching aids, provided through the generous donation of the Massy Foundation, made the teaching and demonstrations interesting and impactful,” Dr. Codrington stated.
She added: “The interest and enthusiasm from the students were encouraging. They participated meaningfully in the discussions and asked numerous questions and even expressed the desire to improve and maintain good oral health. In this regard, the oral hygiene kits (toothbrushes and toothpaste) provided by Colgate will certainly help them to reach this goal”.
While acknowledging that most of the students seen had no cavities and the number requiring urgent treatment was small – perhaps due to the early intervention at the primary stage, Dr. Codrington noted that the exercise was useful and served as a timely reminder for these students.
“Many of the students recalled the dental education sessions that they would have been exposed to at primary school and the visits to the dental clinic for treatment. However, some did not continue this practice as diligently after entering secondary school; therefore, this intervention helps to reinforce and solidify that foundation that was laid at an earlier age,” she maintained.
During these school visits, the dental health team shared information on the importance of teeth, diseases which affect teeth, namely caries (cavities), gum disease-and how these diseases develop and progress. The role of diet in the development of oral disease, including its prevention and the maintenance of healthy teeth were also discussed. The students were also shown demonstrations of tooth-brushing and flossing techniques.
“Students were generally surprised that their diet played such a significant factor in oral health and that brushing and good oral hygiene were important to good overall health,” Dr. Codrington pointed out; “so, we hope that as the dental health promotion moves into its second term, that all schools would take advantage of this outreach effort to help ensure the overall health of their students,” she added.
The eight secondary schools visited last term were (in order): Parkinson Memorial, Graydon Sealy, Grantley Adams, St. Leonard’s Boys, Princess Margaret, Daryll Jordan, St. George and The Lodge School. (PR)