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From: Medicines and chemicals – Footsteps 2

Thinking again about our need for medicines and agricultural chemicals

By Alison Thornley.

Dental disease is a big problem in many countries today, but it does not require specialist knowledge to help prevent this problem. For community health workers, nurses, clinical officers and anyone else who is interested, the following will give a few tips on dental health education.

How do we communicate the dental health message?

  1. Keep it simple. There is no point in showing off your specialist knowledge. All this will do is confuse patients
  2. Don’t be afraid of repeating the message so that people will remember it.
  3. Make sure what you teach is relevant. Don’t show how to use a toothbrush if these are not available, or too expensive for villagers to buy. Instead use a chew stick.
  4. Try to use stories, plays or even puppet shows to make your talk seem lively and interesting. Don’t let your audience fall asleep!
  5. Allow time for people to ask questions.
  6. Make sure you set a good example with your diet.

What is the dental health message?

Teeth are important so that we can eat and enjoy our food and so that we look good too. For dental health we should:


Sugar and mouthgerms mean holes in the teeth

Use posters to show food and drinks which are bad for our teeth. Include sweets, cakes, biscuits and sodas.

These points are very important:

  • Sugar in drinks is a very serious problem especially in hot countries where people need to drink a lot. Every time sugar touches the teeth, even in very small amounts, it does some damage.
  • All sodas or fizzy drinks are bad for teeth. Even bitter lemon which tastes less sweet, still contains lots of sugar.
  • Sugar in tea is bad for the teeth. One spoonful is just as bad as three spoonfuls. Encourage people to try drinking tea without sugar.
  • Never give a child a feeding bottle with a sugary drink.


Mouthgerms and dirt left around teeth mean gum disease

All surfaces of the teeth should be cleaned.

  • Gum disease may start off slowly but later the teeth will lose their strength and become loose and useless. They can also be very painful
  • A chew stick or toothbrush is good for brushing the teeth, but a wet finger, rubbed around the mouth, is NOT!
  • Young children may suffer from a particularly nasty form of gum disease. It is very important to brush children’s teeth for them until they are six or seven years old.

Toothache and gum disease are painful and miserable. They can develop into very serious illnesses very quickly. Young children are at great risk. However these diseases can be prevented using these simple messages. So spread the dental health message:


Look after your teeth and help others do the same.

Alison Thornley worked in the Kisumu Dental Unit in West Kenya for two years. She now works in Coventry.

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