ORAL HEALTH : Alcohol and Tobacco Abuse linked to Dental Diseases

Unhealthy diet, tobacco use and alcohol abuse have been cited as the main causes of oral diseases in the country. This has been compounded by the lack of dental insurance products with only 12.8 percent of the population having secured a dental cover.

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According to the first dental survey by the Ministry of Health, Kenya National Oral Health Report 2015, the prevalence of dental caries among the adult population stood at 34 percent, the most common being gingival bleeding which was exhibited in over 98 percent of the adult population with 45 percent of them reporting to have abused at least one form of substance.


Tobacco was used by 17.4 percent, alcohol by 20 percent and miraa by 18 percent. Currently, the alcohol intake in the country stands at 67 percent.

Only 72 percent of adults had visited a dentist before, 83 percent of them reported a dental related problem while 3.3 percent had gone for a routine checkup. Almost 99.9 percent reported at least a form of dental problem in the previous year.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia acknowledged the increase in dental related problems which he said was factored more by the lack of enough expertise in the department and enough practitioners in the country.

"World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a dentist population ratio of 1:7,000. In Kenya, the ratio is 1:42,000 which unveils a shortfall of nearly six times. This translates to 6,000 dentists compared to the 1,000 registered currently practicing," said Macharia in a statement read on his behalf during the launch of the report in Nairobi.

The deficit in dental health practitioners had led to only 75 percent of the population being able to access the health facilities. He also said, "These gaps should be bridged in order to prevent oral cancer and tackle maxillofacial trauma cases arising from accidents."

Over the last three years, the ministry has facilitated training of 60 dental health officer interns and 10 post graduate dentists in various fields.

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