Indonesia's oral health crisis: Only 2.8% brush right

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Most Indonesians do not brush their teeth correctly

Only a small fraction of Indonesians brush their teeth correctly, contributing to widespread oral health issues, amidst efforts to educate and improve dental care access in the country. (Image: BK Awangga/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune ASEAN

Dental Tribune ASEAN

Mon. 26. February 2024

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JAKARTA, Indonesia: Despite the importance of proper tooth brushing in preventing oral and dental health problems, most Indonesians do not brush their teeth correctly.

Ratu Mirah Afifah, head of professional marketing personal care at Unilever Indonesia,  once said: “Only 2.8% of the population have brushed their teeth correctly, doing so at least twice a day before bedtime and after breakfast.”

Quoted from campus Gadjah Mada University site, Afifah revealed this fact during a free dental check-up and treatment event for 750 elementary school students, children with special needs, and the general public in Yogyakarta as part of the 2023 National Dental Health Month at the UGM Faculty of Dentistry recently.

This low awareness has led to a high incidence of dental and oral problems, such as dental cavities, which affect 88% of the population, requiring them to have regular dental check-ups every year.

“Interestingly, 95.5% of Indonesians admit that they have not seen a dentist in a year,” Afifah added.

Sugar consumption

Afifah added that the population’s sugar consumption trend is increasing yearly. It is projected that by the end of 2023, sugar consumption in the population will increase by up to 9% compared to 2019. This serious issue needs collective attention to promote dental health in the community.

“We cannot completely avoid sugar, but its consumption can be limited and balanced with the correct and regular tooth brushing behaviour and visits to the dentist,” she explained.

Dean of the UGM Faculty of Dentistry and chair of AFDOKGI, Prof. Suryono, emphasised the importance of raising public awareness of proper tooth brushing. Brushing teeth should not be done carelessly; for example, choosing a toothbrush that fits the size of one’s mouth, brushing gently, and selecting the type of bristles that match the condition of the teeth and gums.

“If possible, choose soft bristles because hard ones can damage or erode the enamel of the teeth,” he explained.

He stressed that families should instill the behaviour of cleaning teeth correctly and adequately as early as possible, starting with the habit of brushing teeth at least twice a day in children.

“The data in Indonesia shows that only 2.8% of the population is brushing their teeth correctly; in Yogyakarta, it has reached 6% of its population brushing their teeth correctly,” Prof. Suryono said.

This condition, he continued, is due to the efforts made by the UGM Faculty of Dentistry, local governments, and related partners who have been actively educating the community about maintaining oral and dental health, including brushing teeth correctly.

Access to dental care

Chair of the PB PDGI, Usman Sumantri, highlighted the community’s need to improve dental and oral health, accompanied by adequate access to dental care.

The number of dentists in Indonesia is still inadequate, with a shortage of dentists, especially specialists. Therefore, there is a need to increase the number of dental graduates and admissions to dental faculties.

“The total number of dentists in Indonesia is 43,000, including general dentists and specialists. However, the number of specialists is less than 5,000, which is still very limited, and most of them are concentrated in cities,” he explained.

Regarding high sugar consumption, dentist Sumantri urged the public to balance it with a healthy lifestyle to maintain dental and oral health. High sugar consumption without a healthy lifestyle can contribute to an increase in the number of dental cavities by up to 31%.

The 2023 National Dental Health Month at the UGM Faculty of Dentistry had the theme “Healthy Smile of Indonesia, Healthy Mouth and Strong Teeth.” It was organised through a collaboration between the Indonesian Dental Association (PDGI), the Association of Indonesian Dental Faculties (AFDOKGI), the Association of Dental and Oral Hospitals of Indonesia (ARSGMPI) and Unilever Indonesia.

Poor oral health

Meanwhile, a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Healthin 2020 found that poor oral health is a major public health concern in Indonesia, with approximately 89% and 74% of the population having suffered from caries and periodontitis, respectively.

One of the most important measures to maintain good oral health is regular dental visits, as it allows the dentist to assess the risk of oral health problems, and provide preventive and restorative care.

A national health survey in 2018 estimated that 96% of Indonesians did not visit a dentist within the past year. Several factors that influence dental service utilisation have been identified in other countries, such as age, gender, marital status, residential area, education, income, health insurance and individual health needs, including dental pain and self-perceived oral health.

Beyond the individual factors, the use of dental services has also been linked to broader social determinants, such as social capital, referring to attributes of social structure that facilitates the actions of individuals.

World Health Organization also stated that on Oral Health Indonesia Profile in 2022 that prevalence of oral diseased, especially untreated caries of permanent teeth in people aged 5 years and older, was 28,8%. And the total number of dentists in 2019 still 0,6 per 10,000 population.

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