Dentistry is more than tooth extraction
Dentistry is no longer about extracting a tooth or filling tooth decay. It is now a multifaceted science that includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew and swallow. Dental and oral health helps convey a range of emotions through facial expressions confidently and painlessly. Modern dentistry is a science of practice and research aimed at facilitating the healthy development of dentition, jaws, and dentofacial structures. It is linked to the prevention not only of dental diseases but of all oral diseases as well as to the promotion of better oral health. Dentistry today involves various diagnostic tests, investigations and procedures to decide on normal and abnormal oral health condition, especially with regard to the teeth, gums, jaws and surrounding tissue. There are many specialized procedures in dental science that not only help prevent dental disease, but also add to the appearance of a person’s face.
With the callous attitude of all previous governments in Jammu and Kashmir towards dentistry, and not having a clear policy or vision to bring modern dental science to poor and disadvantaged communities in J&K, it is hoped that the current government headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha will take this issue seriously. The government of Jammu and Kashmir could have used the services of hundreds of Qualified Dental Graduates (BDS) and University Graduates (MDS) to address dental health issues, but this was not done despite the fact that the National flagship program, the National Health Mission (NHM) formerly known as NRHM has been in operation for over 15 years. The indifferent attitude of the government now forces these qualified people to take to the streets.
According to the standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), there must be one qualified dentist for every 7,500 inhabitants. In Jammu and Kashmir we have one qualified dentist for a population of 28,000 people. When this author raised the same issue with Muzaffar Hussain Baigh in 2004, when he was J&K Finance Minister, Mr. Baigh told me that “Kashmir America nahi hai”. This is the attitude of our politicians and officials at the helm towards dentistry. Meanwhile, with a group of young dental graduates, I was fighting for the creation of 350 dental surgeon positions, which in fact became a reality after our sustained struggle for 2-3 years.
Professor (Dr) HU Malik, President of J&K State Branch of Indian Dental Association (IDA), who is very passionate about dentistry and dental fraternity, was also a great guide and support for us. during those days. We used to have regular meetings with him at his clinic in Jahangir Chowk Srinagar. J&K dentists cherish his activism and enthusiasm for the community. Dr Malik continues his dental activism even now when most of his colleagues prefer not even to leave their homes.
The government must have over 1,700 qualified dentists at J&K to meet the needs of the 1.30 crore population, but at present there are only 543 such positions available with the government at its various facilities. health. The J&K government can easily accommodate 1000 qualified dentists to meet the requirements mandated by the WHO.
NRHM, NHM and Dental Health
The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched on April 12e 2005, which was appointed National Health Mission (NHM) in 2012 has not been helpful in combating oral dental disease. The government incorporated Unani, Ayurvedic, and other Indian systems of medicine into these flagship programs, but qualified dental graduates or auxiliary staff (dental hygienists, dental technicians, dental mechanics) were given no preference. Unfortunately, many ISM doctors barely practice Unani or Ayurvedic medicine and instead prescribe allopathic medicines to patients. It never gets noticed. On the other hand, skilled dentists who could have given their best service to people in far off places were left to God’s mercy. They were not deemed suitable for NRHM employment by the government. Access to dental services has not improved much over the past 20 years, as it should have. Provisions to improve oral health services have been mainly used in a limited way by some states, resulting in a general lack of insured oral health services, both in rural areas and urban.
National Oral Health Program
Due to the high prevalence of oral disease in India, oral disease is a public health problem which has a huge impact on systemic health. Poor oral health leads to poor aesthetics, negatively affects chewing, causes excruciating pain, and can lead to loss of productivity due to lost hours of work.
The National Oral Health Program (NOHP) was launched in 2014-15 to strengthen public health facilities across the country for the provision of accessible, affordable and quality oral health care.
The objectives of this policy are
1.Improvement of determinants of oral health, e.g. healthy diet, improvement of oral hygiene, etc.
2. Reduce morbidity from oral diseases by strengthening oral health services in sub-district / district hospitals to begin with.
3. Integrate oral health promotion and prevention services into the general health system and other sectors that influence oral health; namely various national health programs.
4. Promotion of public-private partnerships (PPP) to achieve the public health objective
Under this program, support is provided to states and UTs to set up dental units in or below district hospitals.
Creation of positions
In the past, the Department of Health and Medical Education sent proposals to the Department of Finance to fill vacant dental surgeon positions. It was rejected due to huge financial implications which indicate dentistry is not a priority health issue for the government. This is frustrating for around 7,000 qualified dentists at J&K, many of whom have been protesting the government for the past few weeks in Jammu under the banner of the J&K Dental Surgeons Association. These protest dentists demand that the government create new dental surgeon positions at J&K and also adjust them under various government programs like the National Health Mission (NHM) etc. While speaking to the media recently, the President of the Dental Surgeons Association J&K, Dr Javid Iqbal Chowdhary said their agitation will continue as the government has not created any posts for them in the past few years. It’s ironic that in the past 13 years not even a single dental surgeon has been appointed by the J&K Public Service Commission (PSC). If new positions are created for Unani, Ayurvedic doctors or veterinarians why not create positions for dental surgeons? The majority of doctors are absorbed into the government after graduating from medical school, but in the case of BDS graduates, even 20% of them fail to make it into government departments. It is sheer injustice. To start a private dental clinic, a lot of investment is needed. It is difficult for many dental graduates to begin private practice. In 2019, a proposal to create 273 dental surgeon positions was sent to the government by the director of health services Jammu, but it also did not receive the financial agreement.
I appeal to the Additional Chief Secretary, Atal Dulloo, who is also the Administrative Secretary for Health and Medical Education, to look into the matter with a human heart. At least 500 to 600 new dental surgeon positions are to be created soon. In addition to this, a policy should be adopted for other unemployed dentists, dental technicians and dental hygienists, etc. The government can also use their services as part of a public-private partnership (PPP), which needs to be explored …