Oral health is something that should occupy greater priority in India due to the ever-increasing number people addicted to smoking and chewing practices. There has been a considerable increase in the incidence of Oral cancer among Asian men.
In India and Sri Lanka, where chewing tobacco is used with betel nuts and reverse smoking is practiced, there is a striking incidence of oral cancer, accounting for as much as 50 % of all cancers. The prevalence of common dental problems such as cavities, stained teeth, bleeding and swollen gums is over 75 %. The awareness of the public though remains much less, with more than 60 % of them having a carefree attitude.
The key to effective treatment is early diagnosis and intervention and can be achieved by mass screening programs or a regular visit to the dentist such as once every year. The results of a survey conducted among the urban and rural Indian population, reports that nearly 60% of Indians have never had a visit to the dentist's clinic. Surprising isn't it?
A national consumer usage and attitudes survey conducted across 233 Indian cities has revealed that dental problems in India are reflected in the low awareness levels and poor oral hygiene habits. In addition, it has been shown that people do not associate dental health with adequate oral care.
Most associate dental problems with lifestyle related reasons like 'improper eating habits' and 'being born with bad teeth', a perception prominent in rural areas. According to the survey, as much as 60% of people in India have never visited a dentist and only 2% actually visit a dentist regularly.
When it comes to dental problems, a dentist's clinic is someplace where the Indians would last want to be! Over 50% of Indians are unconcerned about preventing or curing dental problems. They don't seem to be displaying interest unless there is an acute necessity. The follow-up rates are also significantly lower.
The survey also revealed that nearly 24 per cent of consumers suffered from toothache in the past one year and 96 per cent were aware of the problem, but only as few as 35% have taken treatment from a dentist.
In addition to attitudes, the survey also tracked usage patterns and almost 30% were found not using any modern oral care products, the number being higher in rural areas. As far as brushing habits go, over 50% of rural India does not use a toothbrush to clean teeth while over 75% of toothpaste users brush once or less than once a day.
These usage and attitudes only stresses the importance of how far we need to go in terms of imparting health education regarding oral hygiene. The goal however, cannot be achieved without active community participation.