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A crisis of oral health issues in India’s children?

Diabetes and oral health risks.
Increased availability of sugary drinks and fast food are leading to rising rates of obesity, unhealthier diets and poor oral health – with oral health issues present in a staggering proportion of India’s children.

A staggering proportion of India’s children struggle with oral health issues. A recent study suggests a figure of eighty percent nationwide – at least.

Poor oral health is one of the most neglected issues when it comes to public health, experts claimed earlier this year. In India, shortages of dentists mean many Indians go without oral health examinations and diseases as severe as mouth cancer could go undetected until they have progressed to advanced stages where survival outcomes are significantly lower. The latest figures concerning child oral health reminds us of this issue and why efforts to improve the nation’s oral health is desperately needed. 

According to the research, oral health issues affect a majority of children in all regions of India. The highest prevalence is recorded in eastern India, with 89 percent reporting some manner of oral health issue. This is followed closely by western India, with 88 percent. Northern and Southern India record prevalences of 85 and 64 percent respectively. Prevalence is high in many Indian cities, with Kolkata and Mumbai recording prevalences of oral health issues of 93 and ninety percent respectively. 

The study points to a number of factors behind this, including poor oral hygiene practices among young people. More than seventy percent of children do not brush their teeth twice a day and sixty percent have not had a dental check-up in the last year. The study also notes low awareness of oral hygiene standards among parents, which could offer one reason behind why so many Indian children miss out on dental check-ups. Of the children surveyed, 44 percent required major dental work such as restoration. 

Predictably, the study identifies high sugar consumption as one of the factors driving poor oral health among India’s children. Eighty percent of children who consume sugary products on a daily basis experience oral health issues. Researchers have identified excessive consumption of sugar as a driver behind the global oral disease crisis, with a number of countries launching campaigns to convince brands such as Coca Cola to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. Around half of people worldwide experience oral health issues such as tooth decay and gum disease, making such efforts imperative as well as campaigns to generate awareness. India is no exception to the need for these measures. 

“This study highlights the state of oral health in the country, calling out for an immediate need to increase awareness,” Dr V. Gopikrishna, president of the Indian Association of Public Health Dentistry, said of the study. “Numerous other scientific studies also strongly interlink poor oral health to several other health conditions such as diabetes, preterm low-birth-weight and atherosclerosis, among others. It must be remembered that effective management of dental diseases and good oral hygiene can lead to strong teeth, which can improve the overall wellbeing of an individual.”

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