A Cambodian mother allows her child to drink Coca-Cola from a bottle, with a straw.

It is sad to be reminded that the Philippines is one of the countries that have much to improve when it comes to healthcare, more so in oral health care. According to the WHO Ranking of Health Systems in 2000, the Philippines is at the 60th in global rank, whereas according to the DOH, 87.4% of Filipinos suffer from tooth decay. In the Western Pacific Region, the worst in dental care is, ironically, Brunei. The Philippines ranks as next-to-worst in oral healthcare in the region.

According to Vic Medina, dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Dentistry, 70% of Filipinos do not visit their dentists regularly. However, it is heartening to know that 20% take advantage of government-provided dental services, while 10% of those who visit dentists regularly take advantage of private dentists.

In the National Oral Health Survey conducted in 2006, it was discovered that 97.1% of Filipino six-year-olds suffer from tooth decay. Aside from that, 78.4% of twelve-year-old Filipinos were found to have dental caries, 74% of twelve-year-old Filipinos suffer from gingivitis, and 49.7% of the same demographic experienced dental infections. These statistics are indicative of the dismal state of oral health care in the country.

An even more disheartening thing to note is that Filipino children are raised on soda and candy, which are sugar-laden, and are proven to cause tooth decay. These bad eating and snacking habits often lead to gum disease, as well.

Top Left: A photo of a jaw with dental caries.
Top Right: A Filipina child drinking Coca-Cola from a plastic bag, with a straw.
Bottom: A Cambodian mother allows her child to drink Coca-Cola from a bottle, with a straw.
Inset: Candies, which may cause caries because of the sugar content.

Oral health is very crucial, as gum (periodontal) disease is linked to a host of other, systemic diseases, including:

  • Heart Attacks
  • Strokes
  • Lung Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Complications of low birth weight in infants
  • Breast Cancer

In short, with this dismal rate of dental health care in the country, we can expect a whole generation to be at risk for these diseases, including the direct effects of bad or nonexistent dental care.

This, then, is an indication that the DOH needs to step up on the drive to improve dental health care in the Philippines, not to mention an impetus for the toothpaste companies to step up on their oral health information campaigns. Hopefully, campaigns started by companies and organizations such as Oral-B, in partnership with the UP Dental Alumni Association, will become annual events.

More than that, parents should be informed to discourage their children from allowing them to snack on sweets, and possibly even sleep with sweets in their mouths. More than anything, it’s high time to discourage the excessive consumption of sodas. All-natural fruit juices and an increase in the intake of water would be highly recommended.

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