A five-year National Strategic Plan that will see every health centre have a dental therapist and a surgeon is in the offing, Dr Alphonsine Mukandoli, the head of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Services at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) has said.
Mukandoli said the plan that will also see every district hospital get a therapist will be rolled out in 2015.
She was speaking at the World Dental Health Care Day at Groupe Scholaire Nyamata Catholique in Bugesera District last week.
Dr Mukandoli, vice-chairperson of the Rwanda Dental Surgeons Association, said though there is no national survey on dental ailments, there are still indications that it is an area that needs attention.
“According to a study carried out in 2004 on children between five and 12 years of age in seven primary schools across the country, it was found that dental infection was common, especially among children. At CHUK, for instance, we handle at least 50 cases daily, yet we are only three dental surgeons, and three dental therapists,” she said.
Mukandoli said the country has 18 qualified dental surgeons while 15 are undergoing training.
“Only four public hospitals countrywide can handle complex dental ailments, so there is need to increase capacity countrywide,” she said.
Mukandoli said the biggest challenge was that of patients who delay to seek medical care.
“The good thing is Mutuelle de Sante (a community based health insurance scheme) covers dental health. This, therefore, should be motivation for people to seek dental care services,” she said.
Dr Brian Swann, an oral physician from Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston, said dental cavities among children are the most prevalent.
“Most Rwandans have healthy teeth, perhaps because they were not exposed to a lot of sugary foods during their childhood. However, there is a challenge of failure to access adequate health care by those with dental infections,” Swann said.
“There are less than 30 dental surgeons in the country, serving 11 million people yet in the US, one dental provider serves just 2,000 people,” he added.
Frank Rwema, a dentist working with the Rwanda Military Hospital, said a school setting was chosen as the venue to mark the day since young people are the main victims of dental diseases.
“While dental cavities are commonest among young people, gum inflammation was found to be a common oral ailment for adults,” he said.
Stephen Kalisa, a fourth year student of dental therapy at the University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences, said there is need to increase funding for dental health.
“Starting a private clinic is hard since equipment is expensive. One, for instance, requires at least Rwf2m just to acquire a dental chair unit,” he said.