Good Dental Care is Key for Overall Health

People often overlook the importance of oral health and dental care.  But good oral health is essential to our overall health and wellbeing.

We may forget that speaking, smiling, smelling, tasting, and chewing – actions we take for granted - rely on a complex system of oral, dental, and facial tissues (the craniofacial complex) that also protect us against microbial infections and environmental threats.

Poor oral health and dental disease can restrict activities for children in school, adults at work, and families at home.

According to the World Health Organization, in Africa there is one dentist for every 150,000 people  – compared to one dentist for every 2,000 people in most industrialized countries.

In rural Kigutu, Burundi - where the VHW clinic is located – access to dental care is limited.  To have a tooth pulled, locals have two options: consult a local traditional healer with no formal training and little hygiene precautions (locals pay a low price but are at high risk for complications and infection), or go to the capital city of Bujumbura and pay 60000BIF (approx. $38 USD) plus transportation costs.

With many community members living on less than a dollar a day, they often choose the less expensive option and risk the consequences.

Dental decay is a common disease in Burundi, where basic hygiene principles are not followed and where people do not have easy access to tooth brushes and tooth paste.

In 2013, VHW began tackling the problem of oral health head on.  We hosted a team of dentists from Columbia University for a week, during which they trained local VHW practitioners on proper oral health and basic dental care. Our work continued in 2015, when specialist Dr. Ian Zlotlow provided additional training.

Thanks to the support we’ve received, we now have practitioners in the community who can provide dental care and continue to strengthen community members’ understanding of how to stay healthy.