‘Poor oral conditions impact on children’s development’

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Madam Akosua Frema Osei-Opare receiving the petition from Ms Mary Asamoah (3rd right). With them are other dignitaries at the event
Madam Akosua Frema Osei-Opare receiving the petition from Ms Mary Asamoah (3rd right). With them are other dignitaries at the event

A study on the impact of oral health on child development has established that children with poor oral conditions tend to stay out of school and avoid socialising with their peers.

The study conducted by Smile, a research company, indicated that more than three million children from Ghana missed school due to oral pain in 2018. It also associated children’s participation, attendance and socialisation with mates in class to poor oral health.

It also identified that almost a quarter of children who felt oral pain in the last 12 months had not raised their hand in class or asked for help because of the bad condition of their teeth.

The findings of the study were shared at the celebration of this year’s World Oral Health Day (WOHD) by Unilever Ghana at the Independent Square in Accra on March 20.
On the theme: “Say Ahh: Act on Mouth Health”, the event provided a platform for more than 5,000 students and pupils selected from basic schools in Accra.

As part of activities marking the event, the students presented a petition to the Chief of Staff, Madam Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, appealing to her to add her voice to promote the behavioural change campaign to encourage families to brush twice a day.

Madam Akosua Frema Osei-Opare receiving the petition from Ms Mary Asamoah (3rd right). With them are other dignitaries at the event

Negative impact

Madam Osei-Opare, in her remarks, said the fact that the study revealed that majority of children in Ghana had experienced oral pain in the past year indicated that majority of Ghanaian parents were guilty of asking their children to skip brushing at night, a practice which was likely to cause tooth decay.

She explained that the solution to poor oral health was to make conscious efforts to protect an individual’s oral health by brushing his or her teeth twice every day.

Madam Osei-Opare stated that the government would continue to build on its commitment to a comprehensive education and sensitisation to ensure quality health service delivery which included oral health care.

That, she said, was expected to be done through continuous retooling and resourcing of the various health service delivery centres in the country.

The Deputy Minister of Health, Ms Tina Mensah, said: “As important as it may seem, oral health is a major component of the entire well-being of the human body. It directly impacts on our ability to function and to be productive citizens.”

“We are excited about the success Unilever is making through the education of people to brush their teeth at least twice a day. However, the staggering situation is that we are neglecting our children’s oral health.

“It is true that while losing teeth is a natural part of growing up, oral pain related to cavities and tooth decay could be prevented if parents adhere to best practices,” she added.

Behaviour change

The Director in charge of Personal Care, Unilever Ghana-Nigeria, Mrs Nana Yaa Owusu-Ansah, observed that the quality of a child’s oral care had repercussions beyond just health; it limited a child’s potential.

She expressed the hope that sensitisation programmes would help drive real behavioural change around oral health prevention and also reduce the current levels of tooth decay and oral pain, stressing that, “The aim of Pepsodent is to help reach 10 million Ghanaians to build better tooth brushing habits in order to protect themselves from diseases such as tooth decay.”

Apart from Ghana, similar studies had also been conducted in seven other countries: Chile, Egypt, France, Italy, Indonesia, United States of America and Vietnam, among children aged between six and 17, and their parents.