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.