•The Kenya National Oral Health Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026 says this condition affects 90 per cent of all Kenyans.
•Only a small proportion of Kenyans seek dental treatment, the majority doing so only when there is pain or discomfort.
Most Kenyans suffer from an oral disease often seen in form of receding gums, according to the Ministry of Health.
The disease, called periodontitis, is a serious infection of the gums caused by the accumulation of bacteria on teeth and gums, and poor brushing or no brushing at all.
As periodontitis progresses, the gum recedes as the teeth weaken.
The Kenya National Oral Health Strategic Plan 2022 – 2026 says this condition affects 90 per cent of Kenyans.
“Gingival inflammation (inflammation of the gums) was found in 98.1 per cent of the adults examined,” the plan, released late last year, says.
Damage by periodontitis damage can be stopped if the disease is treated early and proper oral hygiene is maintained.
The plan blames a high unmet treatment needs among adults and children.
Only a small proportion of Kenyans seek dental treatment, the majority doing so only when there is pain or discomfort.
“The poor oral health seeking behaviour was attributed to lack of awareness, financial constraints, low access due to distance to the health facility, while a small number regarded it as unimportant,” the plan says.
It was developed by MoH and the World Health Organization, which revisited it on Monday during World Oral Health Day.
The WHO said around 70 per cent of sub-Saharan African countries spent less than $1 (Sh130.5) per person per year on treatment costs for oral health care in 2019, the latest year for which data is available.
Half of the countries in the region do not have oral health policy documents.
In addition, the region’s oral health workforce is chronically lacking, with a ratio of just 3.3 dentists per 100, 000 people recorded between 2014 and 2019, approximately one-tenth of the global ratio.
The Dentists Association of Kenya earlier claimed Kenya has one dentist serving more than 70,000 patients against a recommendation by the WHO of one dentist per 7,000 patients.
“Oral health is integral to general health and well-being, yet it has been neglected in the region for much too long, often with severe and lasting consequences,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said.
“While the most prevalent of noncommunicable diseases, oral health diseases are preventable and treatable. It’s crucial for countries to do more to increase access to affordable prevention and care services and ensure that people are equipped with the knowledge and skill on promoting oral health.”
Most oral health diseases can be prevented without medical assistance – through a healthy lifestyle, a well-balanced diet and good oral hygiene, WHO said.
In addition to oral diseases’ significant health burden, they also have a detrimental social and economic impact, restricting individuals’ participation in society and leading to productivity loss, as well as learning disruptions among school children.
In a bid to reinforce oral health promotion, oral disease prevention and control in Africa, WHO member states adopted a historic resolution in 2021 that set out a vision for universal health coverage of oral health services by 2030.
WHO said it has since developed a comprehensive Global Strategy on Oral Health, which was adopted by countries at the 2022 World Health Assembly.
In collaboration with different partners, WHO said it has supported countries technically and financially in implementing regional and global oral health strategies, as well as building health worker capacity and strengthening integrated surveillance.