Nigeria currently has 84 qualified paediatric dentists to attend to its children, according to the Nigerian Association of Paediatric Dentistry (NAPD).
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, the national president of NAPD, Ify Adegbulugbe, said, “There are many challenges facing oral healthcare in children. Currently, only 84 paediatric dentists are attending to children in Nigeria.”
A dental surgeon, Mrs Adegbulugbe said that the number of paediatric dentists was disproportionate to the country’s population.
Speaking during an online media session to highlight the challenges of oral healthcare in Nigeria, Mrs Adegbulugbe noted that many well-trained and certified paediatric dentists were leaving the country, contributing to the brain drain in the practice.
She stressed that the development had made accessibility and delivery of oral healthcare relatively difficult in Nigeria.
“The cost of providing and accessing dental care is expensive and the burden is on patients.
“This is because the equipment for treatment and restoration are not made in Nigeria and there is no tax rebate or anything in place to make the cost lesser.
“People need to practise safe oral habits, especially for children by going for routine dental checks and not wait until there is a problem or when the child is in pain,” she said.
The dental surgeon called for the implementation of the National Oral Health Policy of 2012 to ensure proper process and administration of oral healthcare in terms of awareness, early detection and prompt treatment.
Also speaking during the session, Morenike Folayan, a Professor of Paediatric Dentistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun, advocated that oral health be included in covered by the National Health Insurance scheme.
Mrs Folayan said the coverage would increase access and reduce the cost of dental care.
She identified tooth decay, bleeding and swollen gum and trauma or injury to the teeth and gum as some of the oral health issues in children requiring prompt and adequate care.
“Oral health should be instituted from childhood. If not done, the dental issues transit to adolescence and to adulthood and continue to affect the lives of the affected.
“We urge the media to advocate the inclusion of oral health in health insurance because things like scaling and polishing of teeth are life-changing and impactful and not only for aesthetics,’’ Mrs Folayan said.