Dental health crisis!

Dental health crisis!

Only one dentist to 70,000 Jamaicans

BY DESMOND ALLEN Executive Editor Operations

Monday, March 19, 2012

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Jamaica’s first local dentists in training at the University of the West Indies (UWI) have warned that there is an oral health crisis in the island.

The students who are pursuing the inaugural Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree at the UWI’s Mona campus, St Andrew, sounded the warning ahead of the official month-end launch of their lobby group, the Jamaica Dental Students' Association (JADSA), through which they hope to deepen their role in improving Jamaica’s primary dental-care services.

"The JADSA believes that there is an oral health crisis on the island and the best way to combat this is through educating the public on oral hygiene," said president Nicole-Ann Bromfield.

Bromfield decried the fact that there was only one dentist to 70,000 Jamaicans, when the internationally acceptable ratio was one dentist to 3,000 patients.

Currrently Jamaica is served by just under 170 registered dentists, all trained overseas, and JADSA said it would be placing emphasis on educating Jamaicans about their role in oral health care.

"That is nothing short of a crisis," added Bromfield who was trained at the Howard University in the United States.

JADSA, under the slogan, "Nurturing Healthy Smiles in All We Do", said it planned to reach Jamaicans as a part of the preventive, rather than curative aspect of dentistry.

"Being held accountable means that each move we make will be well-thought out, well-documented and hopefully well supported by those who are set to benefit from the first set of locally trained dentists," Bromfield told the Observer.

The UWI Mona campus introduced the DDS programme on August 2010 to train local dental surgeons and already has its first two cohorts who will form the founding membership of JADSA at its official launch on March 29, 2012 at the main Medical Lecture Theatre.

The University of Technology (UTech) also introduced its Doctor of Medical Dentistry degree course at the same time. The first batch of graduates are due from both institutions in 2015.

Bromfield said the association had sought the assistance of key players in the ministries of health and education, dentists, assistants, sponsors to achieve their mandate. But she noted that it was easier to get sponsoirs for a carnival than for a dentistry course "because people still think that dental students have money".

The first cohort of dental students, she said, was asked to pay U$25,000 per year for tuition, while the second batch who will graduate in 2016, was being asked to pay U$28,000 per year.

Bromfield acknowledged that US universities are charging up to US$50,000 a year but noted that given Jamaica’s weak economy, the fee was a burden on students.

"Our main concern is that students should not be so indebted that when they start practising. They will have to pass the cost onto their patients in fees for visiting the dentist, in a situation where too few Jamaicans are seeking much-needed dental services," Bromfield said.

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