Shortage of dentists raises risk of cancer

Posted in Dentist Cape Town / Articles



Shortage of dentists raises risk of cancer
South Africans are increasingly exposed to the risks of mouth and throat cancer because of a chronic shortage of dentists.

.

According to the South African Dental Association, there are possibly fewer than 3500 practising dentists in the country.“Your oral cavity is never examined unless you go to a dentist,” said Professor André van Zyl, of the School of Dentistry at the University of Pretoria.He was speaking at a press briefing in Cape Town yesterday to highlight the increased risks of developing mouth and throat cancer through smoking cannabis and using hubbly-bubbly or hookah pipes. Last year, the dental association warned that the human papilloma virus (HPV) might cause throat cancer. Having several oral sex partners would also increase the risk of picking up the virus.

.

But because many South Africans either cannot afford or do not have access to a dentist, their chances of detecting mouth and throat cancer before it is too late are very slim.The Department of Health’s human resources strategic plan, published in October, reported that there were 5.63 dentists per 10000 people who can access private dental care in this country, compared with 0.2 dentists per 10000 South Africans in the public sector – or one dentist in the public sector for every 500000 people.In Brazil, there are 11.56 dentists for every 100000 people.According to the plan, about 265 dental students are admitted to the four universities that offer dentistry a year.The plan predicts that, by 2014, the country will need 401 more dentists to meet the current public sector dentist-to-population ratio.

.

Acting CEO and registrar of the Health Professions Council of SA, Dr Kgosi Letlape, said there was “definitely a shortage” of dental practitioners.“South African dentists are sought after all over the world because of the high standard of dentists in this country.” According to the association, payouts to dentists over the past five years have dropped from 8.8% of the total payout bill to 2.2%. Medical schemes have been criticised for adjusting their benefit structures and paying less for dental procedures when they publish their annual premiums at the end of each year. These adjustments have been said to catch members unawares, leaving them with no choice but to pay dental bills out of their own pocket.

.

Dr Monwabisi Gantsho, CEO and registrar of the Council for Medical Schemes, was unavailable for comment.Van Zyl said dental care had never been regarded as an important part of healthcare in South Africa. But he said this could change with the introduction of the national health insurance, which highlights the importance of oral health.On the dangers of oral cancer, Van Zyl said cannabis affected the immune system.“In those who had smoked at least one joint a day for five or more years, a more than 11-fold increase in the risk for developing HPV-positive cancer was seen,” said Van Zyl.Hubbly-bubbly smokers have a higher risk of contracting mouth and throat cancer because in one pipe-smoking session they can “inhale the equivalent of 100 cigarettes”.

.

http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2012/01/24/shortage-of-dentists-raises-risk-of-cancer


Comments