The need for innovative approaches to oral health education in PNG
Crocombe, L and Siddiqi, M and McIntyre, J and Bettiol, S, The need for innovative approaches to oral health education in PNG, 55th Annual Medical Symposium, The Medical Society of Papua New Guinea, 1-6 September, Hilton Hotel, Port Moresby (2019) [Conference Extract]
Poor oral health adversely affects a person’s quality of life. Oral health and systemic health are interlinked, particularly in the areas of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, pregnancy and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. More associations between oral and systemic health are being found all the time.
With the exception of fluoride exposure, the causes of poor oral health are the same as for poor systemic health. These include poor hygiene, poor diet, smoking, betel nut chewing, not regularly attending health services, and poor social determinants such as low education and income. This suggests that oral health should be handled as a component of overall health, and not as a separate entity as occurs in Australia. Copying Australia’s approach to dental care will result in the expensive "repeat restoration cycle" where teeth are repeatedly restored leading onto crowns bridges and implants.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) has poor oral health and arguably the highest incidence of oral cancer in the world. This combined with a small dental workforce and a developing economy with limited financial resources indicates that PNG needs to be innovative with oral health education.
This could include all PNG health practitioners, including village-based health workers, being taught the causes of poor oral health, oral health and oral cancer screening, non-invasive preventive dental care such as sodium and silver fluoride applications along with a referral mechanism for further care. The Open College could start a dental nurse program that includes those talents mention above as well as infection control measures in a dental setting.
Basic treatment of dental diseases such as minimal intervention dentistry and tooth extractions should be part of the medical and nursing curricula at the University of PNG.