NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 18 – Ahead of this year’s World Oral Health Day (WOHD) Unilever, through its Pepsodent toothpaste brand, in collaboration with Kenya Dental Association (KDA) has launched a behavior change program for primary schools to improve oral hygiene among 1 million children across the country.
The program will educate and empower school children in Kenya to be ambassadors of change towards adopting oral health practices in their families, especially, brushing everyday – day and night – so as to protect themselves and their families against dental problems.
Speaking during the World Oral Health Day celebrations event, Dr Andrew Wetende, Kenya Dental Association Chairman, said that this year’s theme; It all starts here, healthy mouth, healthy body reiterates that oral health is an integral part of body health. “If left untreated, dental diseases can cause severe pain, infection and negatively impact the quality of life, children’s growth, school attendance and performance.”
“Unilever is doing a commendable job in the oral hygiene space through this initiative. I wish to call on all oral care stakeholders, to come together and have concerted and collaborative actions that deliver a mobilized maintained and strengthened agenda towards better oral health practices for children and adults in Kenya.”
Dr Wetende also added, “Oral health is also related to other non-communicable diseases like diabetes, heart diseases through common risk factors.”
The launch, held at Kimathi primary school Nairobi, brought together over 3,000 children from various schools in Nairobi to be educated on correct oral health hygiene practices and to take pledge to brush every day, day and night, after breakfast and after dinner. Brushing twice daily using Fluoride toothpaste has been proven to help remove plaque and reduce tooth decay by 50%.
On her part, Unilever Africa Vice President for Personal Care, Debra Mallowah said; “Today Unilever’s Pepsodent tooth paste brand has committed to help reduce the burden of oral disease in Kenya. Through our oral health behavioral change program, we aim to reach 1 million children and inspire good oral care habits among them, hence minimize medical costs and school absenteeism associated with dental problems.”
Dr. E. Onyiego, Chief Dental Specialist at the Ministry of Health, commented; “Kenya has a dentist to population ratio of 1:40,000 against WHO’s recommended ratio of 1:7,000, therefore reducing accessibility of dental care while making it a very expensive service. The Government, through the Ministry of Health is therefore emphasizing more on prevention and promotive dental care, as demonstrated by this campaign, which is raising oral health awareness and hygiene.”
According to the National Oral Health Survey that was released in 2015, prevalence of dental cavities among children is 23.9 % with number of teeth affected ranging from 1-14. Prevalence among 5 year olds is higher at 46.3% when compared to other age groups. The high prevalence of tooth decay among both children and adult populations is an indication of poor oral hygiene practices.
Pepsodent toothpaste has been introduced in the country with an aim of providing a quality and affordable toothpaste option to Kenyans and improve social life of children by impacting positively on their oral hygiene.