Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
                                                   Official journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry                           
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?

Sudhindra M Baliga 
 Department of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Sharad Pawar Dental College, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sudhindra M Baliga
Department of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Sharad Pawar Dental College, Wardha, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Baliga SM. Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?.J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2019;37:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Baliga SM. Child oral health-care literacy in India: Can access to services be improved?. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2019 [cited 2021 Oct 24 ];37:1-2
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Full Text


The effect of untreated dental caries on the development and health of children often remains overlooked. Children with poor oral conditions are three times more likely to remain absent in schools due to dental pain and also perform poorly in studies. Oral diseases affect the quality of life of children and account for pain, impaired aesthetics, recurrent infections, eating troubles, sleeping difficulties, emergency visits to dentists and hospitals, poor ability to learn, insufficient nutrition, and improper growth and development. Furthermore, treating dental caries in children is expensive and requires time and effort.

Access to oral health-care services implies the ability of an individual to obtain dental care, recognizing and addressing the unique barriers encountered by an individual seeking dental care, including the patient's perceived need for care, oral health literacy, dentist and dental team distribution, financial circumstances, special needs, transportation, location, language, cultural preferences, and other factors influencing entry into the dental care system. Oral health literacy implies the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic oral health information and services needed to make appropriate oral health decisions. In this regard, child oral health-care literacy and access is essential to promoting and maintaining overall health and well-being. When parents are able to access oral health care, their children are more likely to receive basic preventive services and education on personal behaviors. Children are also more likely to have oral diseases detected in the earlier stages and obtain restorative care as needed. In contrast, lack of access to child oral health care can result in delayed diagnosis and rampant dental decay.

Resolving the access to and utilization of child oral health-care issues in India requires alliance among professional organizations, governments, and community organizations and private entities. This partnership must attempt to focus on child oral health literacy, incentives to promote dentistry and dental teams in underserved areas with special health-care needs and provision of volunteer services.

Although in India other health conditions frequently draw attention in health policy and health services discussions, oral health issues seldom rise to the top of the national health and health policy agenda. As a result, oral health concerns have persisted as a major, largely preventable, health problem across the life span of an individual.

The proposed solutions to the access to and the utilization of oral health-care issues include, but are not limited to:

Introducing the oral health education component for public schools' health curriculums, and providing review services to primary and secondary school textbook publishersSpecifying oral health examination for 1-year-old to expedite screening and device oral health recommendations for children and their mothers/require mandatory annual dental examinations for children entering schoolWorking with community leaders to break down cultural barriersDelivering oral health information in vernacular language through multiple community conduitsRegular promotion and press releases on issues of interest to help mass media increase the parents'/consumer's awareness of oral health issuesHosting screening programs for children across India with media coverageHosting events at annual meetings to answer patient inquiries about oral healthWorking with the pediatric health societies and implementing memorandum of understanding to provide a framework for cooperation for promoting the oral health objectives with a focus on access to care, training of workforce, and the education of the public, the profession of pediatric dentistry, and policymakersOffering scholarships to dental students in exchange for committing to serve in an underserved areaTake steps to facilitate effective compliance with government-funded dental care programs to achieve optimum oral health outcomes for indigent populationsEstablish alternative oral health-care delivery service units and arrange for transportationProvide mobile and portable dental units to serve the underservedIdentify educational resources for dentists on how to provide care to pediatric and special needs patients and increase dentist participationProvide information to dentists and their staffs on cultural diversity issues which will help them reduce or eliminate barriers to clear communication and enhance understanding of treatment and treatment optionsIncrease funding for oral health monitoring and surveillance programs for children, as well as for the development and promotion of a preventive infrastructure.

Thus, oral health literacy must be a cornerstone of improving utilization of oral health care by underserved populations. Professional organizations such as the ISPPD actively promote publicly available, culturally relevant literature and other means to increase oral health literacy among underserved populations and improve access to child oral health care. However, true advances in oral health literacy must be driven by collaboration between professional organizations, community organizations and government entities. I wish that 2019 will see an increase in oral health literacy and access through combined efforts from ISPPD and government organizations toward a smiling future for children across the country. Happy New Year and Seasons Greetings!