I recently had the privilege of facilitating and coordinating a meeting in Mexico City called the Oral Health Workshop for the Region of the Americas.
The sponsors of the meeting were the Pan American Health Organization, known as PAHO, and the government of Mexico. Our purpose in organizing the meeting was to discuss ways to create caries-free communities.
We had a great turnout, with 38 countries of the Americas sending representation. Each country was asked to present what is being done in their country to create caries-free communities, especially for the most vulnerable populations. All the presentations were interesting, but there were a few highlights that really stood out for me.
In Uruguay, for example, I found it fascinating that the president’s wife, the first lady, has adopted oral healthcare as her number-one initiative. Children in all schools receive a toothbrush, toothpaste and glass in which they are required to brush their teeth twice a day. They felt this was most effective way to ensure that kids were brushing their teeth given the fact that when children got home, good oral healthcare was not strictly enforced. This demonstrates that when policy makers become committed to oral healthcare, things get done.
The second thing that caught my attention was that fluoride as a means for preventing tooth decay, whether in the water or salt fluoridation, seemed to be widely accepted. It didn’t seem that there was any protest about the use of fluoride as an additive in either the salt or water.
Finally, many of the countries made strong cases about the linkage between oral healthcare and general health. During the last part of the meeting, small groups came together to try to design the ideal model to ensure that caries-free communities were effectively created.
Unfortunately, I did not participate in that portion of the meeting. The swine flu outbreak began to shut down Mexico City and I felt it was necessary for me to leave the country and return home to San Francisco. I am pleased to note that I have had no signs or symptoms of flu. I look forward to reading the final reports from the conference.
Locally, we recently began some discussions at the School of Dentistry to look at the possibility of identifying a community within San Francisco (and perhaps Central Valley) where we can develop a caries-free community. We’ll be having further discussions regarding this effort and I will keep the dental community informed about this exciting initiative.