Focus more on oral health
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Adviser to the Ministry of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy 
Adviser to the Ministry of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy 

–Dr. Ramsammy says, emphasises its link to various diseases and disorders

By Cindy Parkinson  
ORAL health should be taken very seriously, given its link to a number of diseases and disorders, and the overall state of one’s health.

This is according to Adviser to the Ministry of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, who recently told the Guyana Chronicle that efforts are being made to make oral health coverage a priority for health insurance companies.

The former health minister said people believe that long life is a reflection of one’s quality of life, but this is far from the truth. He said that our state of health affects our quality of life, and while it may be long, we may not have lived a healthy life.

He added that our oral health is an indicator that must not be ignored, as it is directly connected to our well-being.

Dr. Ramsammy said that even though oral health is linked to diseases and disorders, regrettably, it is one of the areas that many healthcare systems do not prioritise.

He noted that people in developed countries pay for their health insurance, but it does not cover the expenses for oral care, such as extractions, cleaning, and dental surgery.

According to him, the Government of Guyana, through the Ministry of Health, is trying to change that paradigm, and make oral health as important as any other health-related matter.

He recalled that prior to his appointment as Minister of Health, he would go on outreaches in the hinterland. He said that the success of those outreaches was based on how many buckets of teeth were brought back to Georgetown.

It wasn’t until he became the health minister that he realised that the buckets of teeth were not successes, but were rather failures.

After he took office, the ministry introduced atraumatic restorative treatment (ART), which focuses on the cleaning out of tooth decay (dental caries) from the teeth, using only hand instruments (a dental hatchet and spoon excavator), and putting a filling. The goal of this method was to save the tooth without having to extract, he said.

He recalled that when he took office, the country only had eleven dentists. This motivated him to put measures in place to employ more dentists.

Dr. Ramsammy, during the interview, acknowledged Cynthia Pine, who played an integral role alongside him in setting up the Guyana Dental School, the only facility of its kind in the country.

After a change in government in 2020, the ministry decided to send dentists based in Georgetown to health centres in the other regions so that people could access oral health care and dentistry at their convenience.

“Rather than people coming to where we are, we have put dental chairs in specific locations. One such location is the Brothers Health Centre in Region Six. Brothers has seen more patients than the New Amsterdam Hospital, and we have also put a chair in Number 64 Village. Minister Frank Anthony and I are working to ensure that in 2023, in every region of Guyana, there will be a minimum of four health centres with dental chairs, as well as all our hospitals,” he told the Guyana Chronicle.

Further, he announced plans to address eye-related problems in children in the new year.

“In 2023, we are not only bringing oral health to the children and people, but Minister Frank Anthony and I are working towards every child in Guyana having their eyes screened, and if they need glasses, the government will provide them, or if eye surgery is needed, they will get it, and, hopefully, we can do the same for oral health,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s 2022 Global Oral Health Status Report, it is estimated that oral diseases affect close to 3.5 billion people worldwide. Of that number, three out of four live in middle-income countries.

Globally, an estimated two billion adults get tooth decay, while 514 million children get cavities in their primary teeth.

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