• Oral diseases are some of the most common and expensive to treat, but are also the most preventable.
• So far, 18,000 pupils have been treated; the target is 20,000.
Some 3,500 schoolchildren in Machakos county will receive free dental screening and treatment.
The services are offered in an ongoing oral health programme spearheaded by Mars Wrigley in partnership with the Kenya Dental Association.
The programme called ‘Meno yetu, afya yetu’ targets schoolgoing children aged six to eight in six counties.
So far, 18,000 pupils have been treated; the target is 20,000.
Phase 1 of the programme, which was officially launched by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja this year, covered Nairobi, Murang’a and Nakuru counties.
The second and final phase, which started in March, covers Kajiado, Meru and Machakos counties.
“As we come to a close of this programme, a key [lesson] is the need to have conversations with our children about oral health. Majority of Kenyans only visit the dentist when an oral health problem persists," Dr Andrew Wetende, chairman of KDA, said.
"We should start encouraging regular check-ups to identify and prevent problems before they become complex and costly to treat.”
Oral diseases are some of the most common and expensive to treat, but are also the most preventable.
According to a 2015 report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 62.7 per cent of Kenyans have never visited a dentist.
The most prevalent oral disease is dental caries or tooth decay, with the National Oral Health Survey putting its prevalence among adults at 34.6 per cent and 46.3 per cent among children.
“In our screenings with pupils, we have realised that tooth decay is very prevalent. This is unfortunate as it can easily be prevented through simple measures such as brushing twice a day and improved oral health-seeking behaviour,” Wetende said.
Wanja Mwangi, Corporate Affairs director, Developing Middle East and Africa for Mars Wrigley, said: “Poor oral health-seeking behaviour increases the cost and complexity of treatment, impacting the overall well-being and economic prosperity of the community. By working with pupils, who are powerful agents of change for tomorrow, we are changing this one smile at a time.”
Mars Wrigley, which is based in Athi River, has funded the programme to the tune of Sh13.7 million through the Oral Health Community Service Grant.
In addition to screening, treatments offered included simple fillings, fluoride therapy, fissure sealants and extractions, among others. Complex cases are referred to nearby public dental facilities.
Mars Wrigley, which has operations in approximately 70 countries, has been committed to improving oral health for more than 30 years, having led groundbreaking research in this space with some of the most reputable institutions.
The company partners with dental professionals, supports scientific research and collaborates with governments, organisations and corporate partners to make a difference to oral health worldwide.
Edited by Josephine M. Mayuya