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Oral health in Pakistan faces several challenges and these challenges are often entangled with several economic factors. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach, including increased investment in oral healthcare infrastructure, educational initiatives, and public health awareness campaigns. Efforts to alleviate poverty and improve general economic conditions can indirectly contribute to better oral health outcomes by enabling individuals to prioritize their general healthcare as oral health is its integral part.

Pakistan is one of the highest populated countries and according to Bureau of Statistics’ report of year 2023, it caters more than 242 million individuals. Its population faces a high prevalence of oral diseases, including tooth decay, gum diseases, oral cancers, submucous fibrosis, partial or total edentulism and fluorosis. The economic situation in Pakistan adversely affects oral health of its citizens. High levels of poverty make it challenging for them to afford regular oral and dental check-ups and necessary treatments. Oral and dental healthcare is often considered a secondary concern when basic needs such as food and shelter are not met.

The allocation of funds for oral healthcare in Pakistan is quite low. This badly affects the availability of dental facilities, the training of dental professionals, and public health awareness campaigns aimed at promoting oral hygiene. In rural areas and low-income urban communities, access to oral healthcare services is highly restricted and limited. Generally, suffering people lack the means to travel to dental health facility. In certain regions, there is a scarcity of qualified general dental practitioners and specialists.

Fluoride is considered potential element that lowers the risk of tooth decay. Fluoridation of water is a proven method to provide fluoride to the school children and consumers in optimal quantity. In the most urban areas of Pakistan, there may be challenges in ensuring the proper fluoridation of water sources, leading to an increased risk of dental issues. Due to insufficiency of budgetary provision, people living in cities are deprived of it and suffer from more tooth decay and tooth loss.

A lack of awareness and education about the significance of oral health contributes to the frequency of dental ailments. Majority of Pakistani population lives in rural settings and not aware of proper oral hygiene practices or the consequences of neglecting dental care.

The use of tobacco and betel nut is quite common in Pakistan as it is socially and morally well accepted custom. This harmful habit contributes to a higher incidence of oral cancers and other dental problems. According to the report by the Global Cancer Observatory, new cases of cancers of oral cavity were the second highest as compared to other cancers in the country. Moreover, according to a report from World Cancer Research Fund International, the global mortality for mouth cancers varies but Pakistan occupies the fourth place among all countries where deaths due to oral cancer occurs. Constructive initiatives aimed at regulating tobacco and betel nut consumption can have a favorable effect on oral health. However, addressing this issue effectively will necessitate oral health awareness campaigns, prompting policymakers to thoroughly consider the matter. A positive perspective on their part could alleviate the economic burden on Pakistan’s economy by reducing the need for extensive treatments.

There is an intense need for comprehensive oral health education programs at the community level. These programs can help raise awareness about oral health, promote preventive measures, and emphasize the importance of regular oral and dental check-ups.

The Author is a Dean, Faculty of Dentistry, Baqai Medical University