Bantay Ngipin: Gota de Leche and IAOMT-Philippines’ Mercury-Free Dental Services

Poor oral health is not only caused by bad dietary choices and habits. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social determinants also play a factor as dental diseases are more prevalent among low-income populations particularly among its children and the elderly. Without proper nutrition, children from low-income groups develop teeth that are weak and vulnerable to damage and infection.

Recognizing this, Gota de Leche teamed up with the International Association of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) in the Philippines to deliver basic dental services to its beneficiaries.

IAOMT Philippines with Gota de Leche kids

IAOMT Philippines’ dental mission with Gota de Leche beneficiaries

Bantay Ngipin

IAOMT-Philippines has previously teamed up with other organizations and delivered dental services where it is needed. However, the group’s dental missions are different from the usual dental outreach. Its ‘Bantay Ngipin’ programme strictly follows mercury-free dental practices and places importance on patient education.

Dr Lillian Ebuen, IAOMT-Philippines’ Executive Director, acknowledges that in a country where daily needs take precedence over dental health, reaching out to vulnerable groups is vital.

For four months in 2014, IAOMT-Philippines and its volunteer dentists provided basic dental health services to Gota de Leche children aged 6 to 10 yrs. old. These services included check-ups, extractions, restorations, and prophylaxis.

According to IAOMT-Phils’ Executive Director, Dr Lillian Ebuen, the four month programme was designed to monitor improvements and to readily apply appropriate treatments if and when needed.
During the initial check-up, the group found that the majority of the children (and even their mothers) had severe dental problems.

IAOMT dental staff and volunteers giving the Gota kids a check-up

IAOMT dental staff and volunteers giving the Gota kids a check-up

Quoting the latest Department of Health (DOH) statistics on oral health, Dr. Ebuen stated that it is not very surprising as dental disease is still a major concern for the country. Indeed, the 2011 survey showed that 87 percent of the population have caries and 97 percent of children aged 6 have tooth decay.

Addressing the needs

Dr Ebuen adds that optimum health cannot be achieved if dental problems are neglected. Various studies have shown that chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s can be attributed to bacteria and organisms that leech into the body through weakened gums and teeth. Dr Ebuen also cited recent evidence suggesting that women and their pre-natal oral conditions can influence their pregnancy as bacteria in the mouth can cause premature births or low birth rates.

As a firm believer in prevention, Dr Ebuen further stated that, “Education and awareness will help reduce risks and the need for intrusive dental treatments.”

By the end of its first year with Gota de Leche, IAOMT-Philippines delivered dental services to a total of 107 children. By the end of the outreach, about more than a quarter of the total number has been declared caries-free.

This year, IAOMT-Philippines is on its second year with Gota de Leche and it is optimistic that it will surpass its previous number of caries-free beneficiaries by the end of the year.

(with photos and additional reports by Dan August Abril)

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