Oral health is one of the top 10 health priorities for the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) Public Health Department. Oral health enables an individual to speak, eat and socialize without active disease, discomfort or embarrassment. Oral health is fundamental to general health and wellbeing, significantly impacting on quality of life.
Oral health is often taken for granted, but is an essential part of everyday life. Good oral health enhances the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, and swallow; and convey a world of feelings and emotions through facial expressions.
Dental caries affect between 60-90% of children in developing countries and is the most prevalent oral disease among children in several Asian and Latin American countries. In addition to causing pain and discomfort, poor oral health can affect children's ability to communicate and learn. More than 50 million school hours are lost annually because of oral health problems in both developing and developed countries. Poor oral health is associated with decreased school performance, poor social relationships, and less success later in life. Children experiencing pain are distracted and unable to concentrate on schoolwork.
The WHO 2010 Global School Health Survey which was conducted on 2581 students in UAE revealed that 14.5 % of students did not clean or brush their teeth during the past 30 days. Male students (23.3%) were significantly more likely than female students (8.5%) to not clean or brush their teeth.
In 2010, SEHA School Health Services conducted oral health screening in school children in grades 1, 5 and 9 in 18 schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Of the 2492 students screened, 59% were referred to a dentist for advanced treatment. The number of children requiring referral to a dentist was significantly higher in Al Ain (67.1%) compared to Abu Dhabi (49.4%).
Why focus on schools?
Schools provide an ideal setting for promoting oral health. Schools offer an efficient and effective way to reach over 1 billion children worldwide and, through them, families and community members. The school years cover a period that runs from childhood to adolescence. These are influential stages in people’s lives when lifelong sustainable oral health behaviors, beliefs and attitudes are being developed. Children are particularly receptive during this period and the earlier the habits are established, the longer lasting the impact. Moreover, health messages can be reinforced regularly throughout the school years. Children may also be equipped with personal skills that enable them to make healthy decisions, to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to deal with stressful situations such as violence and conflicts. Schools can provide a supportive environment for promoting oral health.
Abu Dhabi Smiles oral health promotion project
As part of the Schools for Health program, the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi has developed Abu Dhabi Smiles – a school based oral health promotion project. The project focuses on young people from 5 to 11 years of age, and aims to improve their oral health practices. The project will be implemented in schools from January to May 2012.
Abu Dhabi Emirate has 268 public schools and 183 private schools. The oral health promotion project will be made available to all schools.
Project goal and objectives
The goal of the Abu Dhabi Smiles project is to improve the oral health knowledge and behavior of students aged 5 to 11 years in Abu Dhabi by 10% by June 2012.
The objectives of the project are to:
- Increase knowledge about common oral health issues and their causes
- Increase knowledge about ways to protects teeth
- Increase knowledge about steps to take to improve oral health
- Increase frequency and correctness of use of oral health practices (brushing teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist)
Key messages of the Abu Dhabi Smiles project
Children (5 - 11):
- Brush your teeth twice a day
- Using floss once a day
- Remind your parents that you need dentist check-up twice a year
- Brush with a Pie sized amount of tooth paste
- Avoid eating too many sweets
- Encourage teeth cleaning as important part of daily routine from 2 years of age
- Supervise your child when brushing their teeth until they have the appropriate skills
- Brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day will prevent teeth decay
- Talk to your child's dentist
- Healthy foods = healthy teeth