Mon | Jul 15, 2019

Shortage of registered dentists an issue

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:14 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Sidney Lyn, student of UTech, cleans a student’s teeth at the Dental Hygienists’ Association of Jamaica (DHAJ) free cleaning for children from the Good Samaritan Inn, 2-4 Geffrard Place, Kingston, yesterday.

Given the need for at least 900 more registered dentists in the country, chief dental officer in the Ministry of Health Dr Irving McKenzie finds that accessing oral healthcare is still a challenge for many Jamaicans.

“Accessing care is improving, but we are not there yet. We have a far way to go because most of Jamaica is still designated a dental profession shortage area, meaning that there are areas with high population density with few dental surgeons and dental personnel in those locations,” he said yesterday.

Although the Government has ramped up efforts to train more dental surgeons and dental auxiliaries in recent years, there are only 302 registered dentists in the country. Research has shown that Jamaica needs at least 1,200 dentists to meet the demand for service.

“So what we have done from a public-health perspective is to become strategic in our approach. We are increasing the engagement of dental personnel, [and] we are employing more and more dentists and other healthcare providers in dentistry.

We are integrating our services, meaning that if you are diabetic, per se, the management of the diabetes would not just involve you doing your regular medical check-up, but it would also involve a senior dental surgeon,” he said.

One of the groups that has been partnering with the ministry to provide oral health services to the most vulnerable is the Dental Hygienists’ Association of Jamaica (DHAJ), which celebrated its first anniversary yesterday by providing free dental cleaning and sealants to about 150 students from the Maxfield Park Children’s Home and several primary schools in the Corporate Area.

‘True to our motto’

President of the DHAJ, Stacianne Tennant, said that the association was being true to its motto, “A passion for Prevention” in carrying out outreach projects.

There are about 250 registered dental hygienists in Jamaica.

“We are the preventative agents within the oral healthcare system,” she said.

Irving said that the outreach efforts of organisations such as the DHAJ as well as overseas and local missions are appreciated.

“What outreach like this is emphasising is that dental and oral healthcare is essential to life and we would like to emphasise that oral health is important from the womb to the tomb,” he said.