THE University of the West Indies (UWI) has reported Professor Dalip Ragoobirsingh, professor of medical biochemistry and diabetology, as stressing the need for Jamaicans with diabetes to ensure they have good oral health, as the two were linked. Following is the press statement issued by UWI, out of its recent launch of the 19th Annual International Diabetes Conference scheduled for March 21 to 23, 2013 at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, St Ann:
Dr Dalip Ragoobirsingh, professor of medical biochemistry and diabetology of the University of the West Indies, said it was once again a delight for UWI to partner with the University of Technology in this the 19th Annual International Diabetes Conference. He described the latter as the premier medical meeting in the Caribbean, unparalleled and unrivalled by no other.
Prof Ragoobirsingh said the theme of "Diabetes and Oral Health" was significant to UWI for two reasons:
Firstly, it coincides with the recent commencement of the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) programme at the UWI Mona campus. This is a five-year programme delivered in two stages. The fundamental philosophy that underpins this Undergraduate Dental Programme is that dentistry has an embryological and umbilical relationship to medicine. It emphasises that dental education needs to have an integrated basic medical sciences foundation on which competency-based information and communication technology enhanced dental education and simulation training is infused with comprehensive care clinical practice to produce professional, ethical and empathetic general practitioners and specialists.
Secondly, and most importantly, he suggested that the theme represented a paradigm shift in health education to the following:
* Health Care Professionals - Conventional medicine teaches that when a patient is being physically examined it starts with him/her saying "ahaaa" ...the examination starts at the throat. However, the focus on oral health suggests that, at least for the patient with diabetes, the examination should start in the mouth; paying close attention to the state of the gums, teeth and general mouth.
* Patients and their home care-givers need to be advised that people with diabetes are more vulnerable to oral health challenges than their non-diabetic counterparts. Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but serious gum disease may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes. Research suggests that people with diabetes are at higher risk for oral health problems, such as gingivitis (an early stage of gum disease) and periodontitis (serious gum disease). People with diabetes are at an increased risk for serious gum disease because they are generally more susceptible to bacterial infection, and have a decreased ability to fight bacteria that invade the gums. Therefore, dental health tips must be included in the management strategies of people with diabetes.
* Policymakers - It is no coincidence that the health minister was guest of honour at the conference launch. He, himself, is an esteemed dental health specialist. He was, therefore, challenged by the professor, to assist in making available at least one dental check-up per patient annually in the public health system. In the same way patients need to see the eye doctor, have their lipid profiles and other blood studies done once per year, and glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) twice yearly. Oral checks should be included in the suite of annual investigations done to ensure proper management of their diabetes. The Minister's help was being invoked in this regard.
* Public - The media was charged with the responsibility of disseminating information to the public at large. Starting at the press conference and the intervening time to the actual occasion.