Celebrating our progress
The 86-year-old Jamaica Dental Association's Oral Health Month 2014 is being celebrated at a very interesting time in the dental profession's development in Jamaica.
Following on the successful staging of the association's 50th Annual Dental Convention, we have, after much clamouring and agitation, been able to realise the introduction of continuing-education credits for dentists, which brings us up to international standards, both our local dental schools are preparing their first set of students for graduation, and the present minister of health is a dentist - the first such appointment in the history of our country. In addition, we are preparing to honour our colleagues who will be receiving national honours later this month.
Amid our celebrations, we are saddened by the continuing presence of dental 'quacks' in our society, persons who coerce people who are in pain and discomfort to submit to surgery in their mouths, often with dire consequences. The Jamaica Dental Association (JDA) has been lobbying for appropriate legislation to protect the Jamaican people from these unscrupulous characters, legislation which will allow us once and for all to ensure that quacks are removed from the health-care landscape. Updated legislation for the modern governance of dentistry is long overdue, and the delay in moving this forward highlights the low regard for dentistry in our public sector.
We believe that this low regard has, in some part, been engendered by a public-health sector dominated by physicians who trained at medical schools where there was no accompanying dental school, with the consequential lack of appreciation of the learning , skill and role of the dentist in the health-care team. The future is bright in this area, however, as the two new dental schools in Jamaica will not only allow for the training of dental surgeons, but will also allow their allied health professionals to see the budding dentists sweat at nights in the library, worry over practical requirements, and generally to appreciate their discipline.
As the JDA continues to support the local training of dentists, we will continue to advocate that our new dental schools must seek and achieve the highest level of accreditation locally, regionally and internationally, so that our new dentists are trained to a standard equal to the best anywhere in the world. We strongly believe that our local dental students, and also dentists who wish to practise on our shores, must be rigorously examined to ensure that only those who are suitably qualified can treat our people, as they deserve the best.
Eighty-six years ago when Dr G. R. Machado, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, first chaired a meeting of the JDA, the matter of quacks was on the agenda. Now is the time to ensure that this does not remain on the agenda for another 86 years and that dentistry reassume its position among the modern, well-governed professions in Jamaica.
Dr Jeffrey Meeks