The Status of Oral Health in the Philippines

Oral health in the Philippines remain problematic as nine in ten Filipinos are suffering from tooth decay. Despite the prevalence of tooth decay in the country, Filipinos are adamant to see a dentist with only one in ten is willing and able to see a dentist at least once a year.

Because of poor oral health, one in seven people takes a leave from work or school at least once a month. One in ten does not go to school at least twice a year because of a toothache or gum problems.

Other surveys also provide disturbing figures on the state of oral health in the Philippines. According to research, nine in ten children from urban areas have tooth decay, while more women than men have missing teeth.

Philippine senator Ralph Recto noted the insufficient budget allocated for oral health which he described as “no bigger than small caries in a tooth.” According to him, there is a need to restore the budget for oral health as a line item in the national budget.

To ensure that the oral health of the public is given attention and proper care, hiring more public dentists, especially in public schools is necessary. According to figures, there are only 18 public dentists for every one million Filipinos which is an apparent difference to the number of elected public officials at 3,556 per one million Filipinos.

Adding to the problem of the workforce, the oral health industry is also plagued with scant resources. The budget for oral health is only at two pesos per student annually which is far lesser than what is allocated for K-9 units in the same year.

Aside from the lack of proper budget and state support, Filipinos also tend to disregard their oral health and set aside unlike hand washing and household cleaning. In the Philippines, seven in ten people have never been to a dentist.

According to studies, Filipinos let things slide when it comes to the condition of their mouth due to lack of money, time, and knowledge when it comes to oral health, leading to the prevalence of periodontal diseases and dental caries.

What can be done?

Because people cannot lean on government programs and state actions to maintain their oral health as what is stipulated in the constitution due to insufficient budget and lack of workforce, Filipinos need to take the initiative to care for their teeth and oral health.

Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash is the first line of defense which can be utilized. By brushing at least twice a day, plaque and food particles are removed, preventing them from lingering inside the mouth and causing dental problems like tooth decay.

Eating the right foods can also be helpful in stopping the growth of bacteria by ensuring that what goes into the mouth is healthy and beneficial for the teeth. Avoid sugary and starchy foods.

Drinking a lot of water is also necessary when it comes to oral health. It moisturizes the mouth, keeping saliva sufficient.

Although it may be heavy in the pocket, save up for a dental check-up to diagnose diseases and keep the oral health in check. The state also provides free or subsidized dental programs so take advantage of those.

What is Pericoronitis?

Around six months old, our first set of teeth begins to break through our gums. As we age, our
second set of teeth replaces our baby teeth.

Our permanent teeth are comprised of molars, premolars, canines, and incisors, and usually, total
up to 32 teeth.

By the age of 17 to 25 years old (or maybe later years), our mouth welcomes the third set of
teeth. Commonly referred as wisdom teeth, our third set of molars are the last teeth to erupt.
However, our wisdom teeth can come out normally, mesioangular, distoangular, or horizontal.
They can also fail to break through the gums entirely or not develop at all which only 35 percent
of the world experience.

But when the tooth fails to erupt wholly, it can lead to a dental problem called pericoronitis.
Colloquially named the “wisdom tooth infection,” pericoronitis occurs when the soft tissues
surrounding the crown of a partially erupted tooth where the gum tissue overlaps the chewing
surface of the tooth become inflamed.

Because of the partial eruption of the wisdom tooth, an opening for bacteria to enter and food
particles to get wedged is created around the tooth. Bacteria then can build up and cause an
abscess to form under the operculum or the gum flap.

If left untreated, the infection can spread, irritate the gingiva, and lead to pericoronitis that, when
severe, can reach the jaw, cheeks, and neck.

The infection can be chronic or acute. Chronic pericoronitis is a mild inflammation with no to
minor symptoms. Alternatively, acute pericoronitis has intensified, wide-ranged symptoms
which can include swelling, pain, and fever.

People in their mid-20s or those developing their wisdom tooth are more susceptible to wisdom
tooth infection. Also, wisdom tooth often, if not always, emerges at the back of the mouth which
is difficult to reach when brushing, heightening the area’s vulnerability to being infected by
bacteria.

Symptoms of pericoronitis may differ in individuals as they are dependent on the infection’s
severity. Indications of the dental problem include pain on the oral cavity, swollen gums, fever,
loss appetite, difficulty in the movement of the mouth and jaw, swelling of the lymph nodes, and
bad taste in the mouth, among others.

Pericoronitis can be diagnosed through clinical evaluation and the occurrence of symptoms.

A dental X-ray and check-up can help identify the position of the wisdom tooth, access the
condition of the mouth, and check indications of the wisdom tooth infection.

Pain and inflammation management, surgery, and wisdom tooth extraction can aid in addressing
pericoronitis.

Be wary of symptoms and consult your dentist immediately for the right diagnosis. Your dentist
may prescribe medicines to relieve you of the pain and swelling, but when the pain becomes
unmanageable, undergoing an oral surgery to remove the gum flap may be proposed.

On the one hand, a wisdom tooth extraction may also be recommended. You can also opt to have
your wisdom tooth extracted even before it gets infected to prevent pericoronitis.

However, note that proper oral hygiene and a dental visit will always be the best way to avoid
the infection.