Dental professionals have urged Rwandans to adopt the culture of undering regular dental check-ups.
This was during the occasion to mark the World Oral Health Day on Tuesday, when dental surgeons and dental therapists provided free dentalcare services to over 2,000 people from the sectors of Kimironko and Bumbogo in Gasabo District.
Adelaide Muhigana, a dental surgeon at Legacy Clinic and a representative of the Dental Surgeons Association in Rwanda, said many Rwandans don’t value dental health and never go for check-ups unless they get sick.
“Rwandans generally remember to go to the hospital when they can no longer stand the pain. It’s rare to see people coming to the hospital just for normal dental check-up,” she said.
Even when they get to the hospital, they ask medics to remove the sick teeth as if they are not needed, Muhigana added.
“I’ve been in dentistry for over 20 years and I have seen about only five families coming to hospital to do a normal dental check-up. There is need to raise more awareness so that people do routine check-ups, which is cheaper than treating sick teeth,” she said.
Christine Mwezi, the representative of Rwanda Dental Association, said they are struggling to change Rwandans’ attitude concerning dental health.
Theogene Ndikuryayo, from Bumbogo Sector, said two of teeth were extracted after he sought intervention from hospital late.
“I didn’t understand why it was important to go for a check-up when I’m feeling well. I only went there when my teeth were paining me and they extracted them. But now I appreciate why I have to go for check-ups,” he said.
The most common dental diseases in Rwanda include dental holes, dental caries and gum diseases.
According to Christine Mwezi, also from Rwanda Dental Association, at least 60 per cent of outpatients across the country go hospitals over dental issues.
“The challenge is that many go to the hospital when they already feeling ill. They don’t have the culture to do routine check-ups. We try to deliver messages through various platforms to take care of this. Teeth matter like any other part of the body,” she said.
Agnes Gatarayiha, the vice representative of School of Oral Health at University of Rwanda, said every year they graduate at least 40 dental therapists, and there is hope that the numbers will one day be sufficient.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, there are 420 dental therapists in district hospitals. Only 20 surgeons and 15 health centres are capable of delivering all dental treatment.
“We urge the Ministry of Health to change the structure so that these professionals can even operate from all health centres in order to serve as many Rwandans as possible,” she said.
This year’s theme reminds people that “maintaining good oral health is a prevention measure to many non-communicable diseases”.