Karachi: Oral health is an important aspect for all children, especially those with special health care needs. Physically disabled children experience greater challenge in maintaining proper oral hygiene and health care, often due to a lack of basic motor skills and intellectual abilities, that preclude proper tooth brushing. Many syndromes are associated with dental manifestations of crowding, hard tissue defects and hypodontia which complicate masticatory efficiency and predispose individuals to dental caries, periodontal disease and TMJ disorder, further deteriorating the quality of life.
Oral health is amongst one of the neglected areas of health care needs in Pakistan. Therefore, the Department of Community Dentistry at Bahria University Medical and Dental College organized a visit to Pakistan Navy M.A. Rangoonwala Special Children School at PNS Karsaz, recently. The school caters to children with special needs to help them carry out the routine chores and meet the daily challenges of life.
Led by the Head of the Department, Dr. Kulsoom Fatima Rizvi, lecturers and a group of 30 students of 2nd Professional B.D.S., paid a visit to the special school. A total number of 260 children between 6-20 years were examined by the dental students under the care of their supervisors. Children were taught proper brushing techniques through animated videos and demonstration on models. Colgate also offered complimentary gifts to the children.
Clinical examination was done with emphasis on infection control and barrier precautions. Examination included assessment of facial profile and presence of any facial deformity, dental caries, gingivitis , hypodontia, supernumerary teeth, retained deciduous teeth, peg lateral incisors, enamel defects, malocclusions including; crowding, deep bite, open bite and increased over-jet, and cleft palate etc.
This trip had a two-fold influence on the learning of dental students. Firstly, it enhanced their communication and interaction skills with the disabled individuals. Secondly, it educated them about the prevalent dental anomalies in children with autism and Down Syndrome.
Improving the oral hygiene status of children , especially those with intellectual or physical disabilities is a daunting task, but it can be achieved through conducting such trips and spreading awareness amongst parents and guardians. Additionally, a joint action by dental professionals and public health authorities is required to address the discrepancies in oral health and address the barriers to education and care that include cost, fear, and social attitudes. It also includes organizing advanced and continuing education programs to train dental practitioners. Together with proper planning and clear communication, the overall health standard can be uplifted in Pakistan.