Teachers of Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country will be trained in oral health so that they can sensitise students about the significance of dental hygiene and healthy eating like avoiding sugar rich food and beverage. In a first-of-its-kind initiative by the Centre for Dental Education and Research at AIIMS, one such training workshop in collaboration with the Union health ministry was held recently, officials said.
According to experts, untreated dental problems contribute directly to significant healthcare expenses besides affecting school life or work. Studies have reported that children with poor oral health were almost four times more likely to miss school due to dental pain or infection and have a higher likelihood of poor school performance.
Treating dental diseases in children is expensive not only due to the direct costs but also indirect costs such as time taken off by parents to take their children to a dentist, chief of Centre for Dental Education and Research (CDER), Dr O P Kharbanda, said.
“This is the first time that AIIMS, New Delhi has initiated capacity building on-site for teachers across India and select them as master trainers. They will carry the knowledge back to their respective schools and train more groups of teachers and sensitise students about the significance of oral health and dental hygiene,” he elaborated.
“Children spend long hours at school and teachers have a good chance to interact with the parents as well, leaving a lasting impact on the society,” Kharbanda said. AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria said teachers play a pivotal role in development of value systems in the society and promotion of healthy behaviour like oral hygiene and avoiding sugar-rich food and beverages early in life.
“Oral health is an integral part of healthy body-mind and spirit. Considering the fact that it is not pragmatic for the doctors to reach out to all the schools, it was reiterated in the programme that teachers should step up their initiatives towards building a healthy society,” he said.
The training runs on a blended learning format with lectures, discussions and activities to inform the teachers about the key concepts on dental health like methods to identify oral diseases, referral to dentists, management of emergencies like broken tooth at school and prevention of oral diseases through brushing and mouth rinsing.
According to the National Oral Health Survey and Fluoride Mapping (2002-03), dental caries in children aged 5 was 50 per cent, 52.5 per cent in 12 year olds and 61.4 per cent in 15 year olds.
The World Dental Federation estimates that 83 per cent of children aged 6-19 years have dental caries. “Prevention and early detection of oral health problems are always better than cure. Skill building initiatives among important groups of the civil society including school teachers should be encouraged to enhance awareness about the significance of oral health,” Kharbanda said.