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The Aga Khan University Hospital Pakistan

Role of Dentists and the Value of Dental Hygienists in Dental Practice

 
<p>​The Aga Khan University hosted an event ‘Role of Dentists and Value of Dental Hygienists’ where leading dental practitioners, academics and dental students attended the series of talks on the subject and toured AKU’s Dental Simulation Lab. </p><div> </div><div>Dental hygiene is a new concept in Pakistan and in many countries of the developing world it is still unknown. In the early 80’s street side quacks used to extract teeth and fit dentures. There was no concept of infection control and sterilization. Diseases such as Hep B, hep C, HIV Aids and others were transmitted easily amongst patients. In some places they still are. </div><div> </div><div>There are approximately 40,000 non-qualified dental practitioners in Pakistan. The dentist population ratio in Pakistan is 1:1305811 whereas according to WHO recommends dental population ratio of 1:75000 for developing countries. </div><div> </div><div>“The overall disease burden in developing countries is higher than the developed world. Prevention is not understood and the value of dental hygiene in the relevance to general health is certainly not understood,” according to Dr. Saida Rasul, Associate Director, Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene. “Diseases are treated on an ad hoc basis. Comprehensive care is not practiced. Diseases such as cavities, gingivitis, periodontal disease, oral cancers, and diabetes are rampant in the population at large.”</div><div> </div><div>With its mission to respond to the current needs of the countries where it operates through quality education, The Aga Khan University Medical College launched a two-year Diploma in Dental Hygiene programme in 2015. To date, AKU has graduated 22 Dental Hygienists from the programme. They are highly specialised and have undergone rigorous education in dental hygiene theory, dental hygiene skills lab, preclinical and clinical practices as well as community health and outreach under the best faculty in Dentistry at the Medical College. AKU now offers a two-year Associate of Science degree in Dental Hygiene that is recognized by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. AKU’s applicant pool for this programme is from Pakistan, Uganda, Kenya, North America and students undergo rigorous training as well as community work in low income areas in Karachi and beyond to raise awareness about dental hygiene. AKU is committed to its work in public health in dental care around the world. </div><div> </div><div>“Dental hygienists play an integral role as preventive health practitioners. With the prevalence of head and neck cancers in Pakistan, this checkup with dental hygienists an detect cancers earlier and improves the patient’s quality of life.” Dr Sabrina Heglund, Director, Associate of Science in Dental Hygiene. </div><div> </div><div>Research shows connection between a pregnant mothers oral health and low birth-weight in the newborn child as well as pre term babies with continued health issues into adult life. Research also shows the prevalence of heart disease and stroke correlated to bad oral hygiene. Diseases such as diabetes, oral cancers, reflux, stomach issues-all can be or should be able to be diagnosed in the mouth by a well trained practitioner.</div><div> </div><div>Speakers discussed how by including dental hygienists into dental practice, dentists can increase the revenue of the practice by having dental hygienists focus on providing oral health counselling, do thorough dental check-ups that can detect serious diseases, conduct smoking cessation clinics, while dentists can focus on more complex procedures. This will make oral healthcare accessible to more people. </div><div> </div><div>Dental hygienists can play a leading role in eradicating systemic diseases leading to longevity of life and better quality of life for the population. They can be employed in hospitals, community health centres, schools, palliative care situations and in academia. </div><div> </div><div>AKU Dental Hygienist graduates spoke about their training experience and working in communities. Ultimately, a hygienist is to a dentist, what a nurse is to a doctor. </div><div> </div><div>“When nursing started as a profession, doctors were reluctant, but now the role of nurses is recognized all over the country and AKUH is the best example of this. We hope the time will come for dental hygienist and dentists to work closely together to make oral healthcare accessible to all,” says Atiqa Inayat, AKU Dental Hygiene graduate. </div><div>
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