The dental industry in the Caribbean region is undergoing some changes. You might not remember the “Engaging the Caribbean Region for Oral Health” summit of November 2013 which facilitated conversations with Colgate and key oral health leaders. The goal of the summit was to advance a collaborative approach to improve oral health access across the Caribbean. Key findings were that oral health in the Caribbean region has largely been a low priority for regional governments and that young children are most at risk for dental caries. This article will delve into the state of the dental industry in the Caribbean region, as well as to what has been done to advance and improve it in recent years.
The Dental Industry from a Caribbean native’s point of view
According to a Jamaican native writing for The Philadelphia Tribune, oral health was never a priority in the country. People in the rural areas of the Caribbean rarely visited dentists. The only time people would make the trip is when their problem becomes unbearable. This happened due to a range of factors. Many Caribbean people have a low income, lack of transportation and a lack of knowledge of why oral health is important. Due to this, many people in the Caribbean resort to herbal remedies. People in Trinidad are known to use datwan to brush their teeth. Datwan is the twigs of the hibiscus tree. People in Jamaica are known to use a chew stick, which has proven to keep teeth white.
The writer also confirmed the findings of the summit, where it is said that as a child they saw a dentist once a year when they visited their school. By that time, many of the children had dental issues which could have been prevented. This led to bad gum health, as well as extractions which could have been prevented. Many adults in the Caribbean do not have the financial means to purchase dentures after the extractions, which leads to low self-esteem as their appearance is affected.
The “Engaging the Caribbean Region for Oral Health” summit
The summit welcomed delegates from Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Barbados, and Granada as representatives of governments, the academia and professional groups. The keynote speaker for the summit was Dr. Rahul Naidu, a Senior Lecturer in Community Dentistry and Coordinator of the Child Dental Health Unit at The University of the West Indies. Dr. Naidu presented a paper titled “ Oral health inequalities in the Caribbean”. The key findings of the paper are:
- Oral health in the Caribbean has been proven to be a low priority for regional governments.
- Private dental services are difficult to access for most, due to lack of finances and transport, which results in public dental services providing the bulk of the care.
- Children in preschools and primary schools have been shown to have the highest risk for dental caries.
- To reduce the inequalities in the dental industry, an effective and appropriate oral health promotion policy which functions to address the underlying causes of oral diseases has to be implemented.
- A research agenda focused on gained data regarding social and economic conditions is needed.
Ways to improve the dental industry in the caribbean
The understanding of dental caries has to be updated and has to stay that way. This would provide a shift for the Caribbean dental schools’ graduates towards a more current understanding of the issues, which would lead to better oral health for the Caribbean. There has been an effort in pursuing this. Dental school deans from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico were invited to gain a consensus on the domains of cariology for undergraduates in dental schools in the Caribbean. The result was a cariology consensus for undergraduates being achieved by 15 dental schools in the Caribbean region.
While improved access to routine dental services is the priority, many adults in the Caribbean would also benefit from cosmetic dentistry. Seeing that many did not have access to dentists as children, this means that many did not have access to braces if needed. This issue may be solved by innovations in the cosmetic dentistry industry. Smile Prep is an online media company that covers these innovations in cosmetic dentistry. Smile Prep also provides practical guidance to young adults looking to feel great about their smile. Detailed guides have been created which break down the differences between in-office and at-home (DTC) clear aligner treatment options, and in-depth reviews of at-home providers. For people interested in cosmetic dentistry, they can explore this free guide.
The Caribbean region has faced a range of issues leading to poor oral health in the region for decades. Ranging from lack of prioritization by governments, poverty and lack of access, the issues have proven to be large obstacles. But they are not impossible to overcome. Initiatives by Caribbean dental schools and innovations accessible by all have proven a route to gaining better oral health across the Caribbean.