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Oral health status

Oral health status is often characterized with the DMFT index, which sums the number of Decayed, Missing, and Filled Teeth within a person’s mouth. The World Dental Federation estimates that 83% of children aged 6-19 years have dental caries (FDI World Dental Federation, 2011). The majority of 12 and 15 year-olds had a DMFT value between 1-3, while the majority of older adults (65-74 years) had a DMFT value between 25- 32. In 12 year-olds, the average DMFT value was 1.7. Periodontal disease affects the majority of Indians and follows a similar trend as dental caries, where the prevalence increases as age increases. In 12 year-olds, the prevalence was 55.4%, increasing to 89.2% of 35-44 year olds. The prevalence in the 65-74 age range was slightly lower (79.4%), most likely due to the high prevalence of missing teeth in this age range. Periodontal disease is equally prevalent across genders, with somewhat higher prevalence in rural areas and with deprived section of society.

Lack of knowledge about oral hygiene

There is a total lack of knowledge about oral health and hygiene as evident from IMRB Survey which states that 40% Indians do not use a toothbrush. 65% Indians change their toothbrush only after visible signs of damage, occurring after 8 to 10 months. 55% change tooth brush only when the bristles start bending. 43% change only when the toothbrush starts looking dirty. 32% change only after bristles fall off. 56% Indians believe that nothing serious would happen if the toothbrush was not changed (IMRB Survey). This situation is worst specially among rural and low income deprived people.

There is also inadequate or improper use of fluoride products, systemic infrastructure deficiencies (access to dental care) that prevent proper screening and dental care of oral diseases, especially in rural areas, among older people, people living in rural areas, and people with low income and education.

The consequences of widespread poor oral health can be seen on the personal, population, and health systems level, as caries and periodontal disease deteriorate individual health and well being, decrease economic productivity, and act as significant risk factors for other systemic health ailments. These include the birth of pre-term low-birth weight babies, coronary artery diseases, and diabetes mellitus.

Dental diseases

Dental diseases are a significant public health burden in India. Dental caries and periodontal disease are the two dominant disease burdens in oral health in India. With dental caries affecting 80 to 95 percent and periodontal diseases affecting an estimated 50 to 90 percent of the general population, depending on age, with research suggesting that higher rates of dental diseases occur in rural areas. Both dental caries and periodontal disease can cause reduced quality of life and diminished function as a result of the pain and suffering associated with oral conditions.

While these statistics reveal a deficiency in dental care for all of India, it can be posited that oral health in rural villages is in more dire conditions than urban areas because rural areas in India are more susceptible to dental caries and periodontal disease, in part because rural villages have lower access to preventative and restorative dental care. 1.5% dentists are available in rural India where 72% of Indian population resides (National Oral Health Survey). Thus, there is need to increase awareness of the importance of oral health and improving access to dental services in rural India.

Oral health will dramatically improve with education and preventive efforts. Community Centre was conceived by IDA with the aim to increase oral health literacy and access to preventive and restorative care among low income families and people in remote rural areas.