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‘Sealing’ program fights rampant tooth decay in children

School students have their teeth checked by dentists at Phnom Penh’s Sonthormok High School in 2014. Government research has found that on average a 6-year-old has close to nine decayed teeth.
School students have their teeth checked by dentists at Phnom Penh’s Sonthormok High School in 2014. Government research has found that on average a 6-year-old has close to nine decayed teeth. Hong Menea

‘Sealing’ program fights rampant tooth decay in children

The teeth of some 60,000 Cambodian children have been “sealed” to help prevent tooth decay under an oral health project that recently concluded, but many more continue to be in need of such service, given the country’s significantly high tooth-decay rate.

Dr Callum Durward, head of Puthisastra University’s dentistry department, who coordinated the project dubbed Seal Cambodia, said children in 98 primary schools in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kampot and Kampong Speu provinces had their first permanent molar teeth “sealed”, with a clear coat that prevents decay.

The project was in part prompted by the Kingdom’s dismal tooth-decay rate. Research from the Ministry of Health has found that an average 6-year-old has about nine decayed teeth, one of the highest rates in the world.

Durward said those involved in the three-year project were able to get the job done on the school grounds with simple technology and at a low cost.

“The disease is so widespread, so severe, that dentists are not the answer,” he said of combating the problem.

Most of the 60,000 children required three or four teeth to be sealed while others already had tooth decay and their teeth couldn’t be treated, according to data. Dr Hak Sithan, with the Health Ministry’s department of preventive medicine, acknowledged that more oral health intervention is needed.

Dr Solita Yam, director of the Cambodian Dental Association, said parents don’t understand the importance of oral hygiene. “They think that teeth problems are a small problem,” she said.

Additional reporting by Sen David

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