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    Posted September 1, 2015 by

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    Ross Chiaramonte, continued hope for third world access to dental care


    Author William Arthur Ward once wrote ‘a warm smile is the universal language of kindness and as a dentist I can attest to this’. Unfortunately, a healthy smile isn’t accessible to a large fraction of the globe due to limited or no access to a dentist or proper oral health care. When I graduated from Dental College and I looked at my name, it had been written carefully in calligraphy, Dr. Ross Chiaramonte, it made me proud, but also infused me with a desire to help those most in need. This prompted me to work at a veterans hospital, which was truly rewarding. Much like the brave young dentists who volunteer their time and often money to help dentists in developing countries.


    The World Health Organization (WHO)estimates that there is one dentist for every 150,000 people living in Africa, that’s compared to one for every 2,000 in industrialized countries.  Poor dental health and care can lead to many oral problems, including, gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss. As the main entrance of the body, the overall health of your mouth has a direct effect on your general health; cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, dementia and diabetic complicationshave all been linked to poor dental hygiene.


    The World Health Organization and Dentists Without Borders are among the international agencies that advocate, support and implement oral health initiatives in developing countries around the globe.


    The southern African nation of Uganda is one of the countries the World Health Organization and Dentists Without Borders offer dental programs in. The country’s 25 million residents have one of the highest dentist to patient ratios, with one dentist for every 150,000 to 300,000 Ugandans. With almost 87 percent of the population living in rural and remote areas, Uganda presents unique challenges in offering basic and preventative dentistry for isolated residents. This data is representative of developing countries around the globe.


    The work Dentists Without Borders and other volunteer agencies do is fundamental to the promotion of oral health around the world. It is imperative that they are able to continue this work. Good oral care is the first step in prevention, prevention of tooth loss, gum diseases and other oral issues. Promoting oral hygiene in countries that have a burdened health care system can reduce costs and allow doctors to focus on patients with life-threatening injuries.


    Here in North America, we have improved overall oral healthin the general public through a variety of efforts, like public service campaigns, early childhood education and fluoridated water. But, in developing countries citizens don’t have ready access to this invaluable information. However, through the efforts of the many volunteers that travel there and to other developing countries oral healthcare is becoming more prevalent and widespread.


    Last year, in conjunction with the WHO’s World Oral Health Day, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, the Ugandan State Minister of Health, announced that all regional referral hospitals would staff a full-time dentist supplied with the necessary equipment to assess and treat patients. This is part of a country wide effort to improve access to dental service for all Ugandans. 


    Increased oral health care has been linked to reduced infant mortality rates and may be part of the reason some African nation’s infant mortality rate has steadily declined since 2010. As more evidence emerges proving good oral health is directly linked to life expectancy, it is imperative we provide those in developing nations with proper oral health care to ensure their overall quality of life. I hope the Dr. Ross Chiaramonte legacy is as dynamic and widespread as that of Dentists Without Borders, an agency I truly admire.

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