(MENAFN - Arab News) A majority of individuals in the Middle East do not practice recommended oral hygiene measures, according to dental practitioners in Saudi Arabia.
Furthermore, prevention of oral diseases is not a high priority in the region, especially among adults, with visits to dental clinics made only at the onset of teeth pain.
The observations were made during a workshop hosted by Johnson & Johnson Middle East recently in Dubai as part of an effort to examine the current status of oral hygiene in Saudi Arabia and the challenges dentists face in their day-to-day practice.
As one of the key outcomes of the deliberations, panelists highlighted the urgent need for research, continued education and public awareness initiatives on oral health and hygiene in the country.
The experts additionally underlined the need for decision-makers in all health sectors in Saudi Arabia to increase the number of dental hygienists and use consistent guidelines and instructions to improve public awareness.
The Johnson & Johnson Middle East workshop drew the participation of periodontology and implantology consultant Dr. Hesham Al-Mashat, assistant professor at King Saud University, Dr. Meshari Al-Damkh, fellow professor at KSU, Dr. Anil Sukumaran, and Dr. Montaser Al-Qutub, another KSU associate professor.
Al-Mashat said: "We have a number of hygienists in Saudi Arabia who help patients understand the importance of maintaining an oral hygiene regime. Despite this, up to 30 percent of our patients do not know the difference between cleaning the teeth and cleaning the gum. We believe it is a major role of hygienists, dentists, periodontists, nurses and all health care provider organizations to raise the awareness on the importance of oral hygiene and oral health."
According to one of the largest independent epidemiology trials in the Middle East conducted by Phystone Research in 2007, which evaluated periodontal disease in Saudi Arabia, 45 percent of the population between the ages of 18 to 59 suffer from bleeding gums.
Against this scenario, experts at the workshop highlighted a clear need for improving epidemiological and clinical studies in oral hygiene to examine the magnitude of the problem and identify solutions. The dentists also concurred that despite the glaring need for periodontists, the specialty ranked among the least practiced in Saudi Arabia.
Sukumaran said: "Today, there is a lack of awareness in society on the importance of oral health; people believe it is not life threatening even when many systemic diseases, such as heart conditions, have been linked to poor oral hygiene. Most patients visit their dentists only when they suffer from unbearable pain. Some patients even believe that chewing gum can replace brushing. The truth is that there is no alternative to brushing, flossing and using an antibacterial mouthwash as these are essential for maintaining oral health, which is also emphasized in international oral hygiene guidelines."