Liberia: 'One Dentist Serving 700,000 Patients in Liberia'

Monrovia — "In Liberia, we have seven dentists, one to seven hundred thousand and we have fifteen counties and twelve out of those counties, do not have dentists. In JFK, we will have 10-15 deaths yearly," Dr. Ayele Ajavon Cox.
As a way of creating awareness, World Oral Health Day on Thursday was observed at the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare where school children teeth were cleaned and hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpastes were distributed among the pupils.
Celebrating the first world oral health Day in Liberia, Dr. Ayele Ajavon Cox, DMD Hygienist Dental Therapist/practitioner, known to be the foot soldier in collaboration with Smile for Liberia, observed the day through the reaction of awareness.
Looking at Liberia's statics of one Dentist to seven hundred Thousand and her own story of how she became a foot soldier, Dr. Cox said ninety percent of the world suffers toothache sixty percent have access.
"Why I am the foot soldier is because when I was 12 years old, my cousin Yede Baker and I lived in Grand Cape Mount County with her father and my Uncle JDK Baker. And one year he decided to bring my cousin and I to Monrovia because all during the year we were complaining about our teeth. There were no roads to Monrovia, only boats and canons, but we walked two days to come to Monrovia because my uncle said the boats and canoes were safe to travel. And we arrived in Monrovia to a Dentist called Dr. Townsend and he extracted our teeth."
She said it was then, that she realized that she and her cousin were lucky because they had the opportunity to see a Dentist. "There were several others in Cape Mount who would have never been able to afford a dental treatment. So I decided to become a dentist. This is why I am the foot soldier."
Mrs. Yah Martor Zolia, Deputy Minister of Planning and Research Development, Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, gave the keynote address under the theme: 'Do you know that your oral health could affect your overall body health?'
She said the aim of the day is to create a need for a robust sensitization campaign locally and internationally. According to her, ninety percent of the world population will suffer oral health problems in their lifetime, which could be avoided.
"The incident of oral cancer is between one to ten cases per hundred thousand in most countries, because oral cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer in the world and the most costly to treat. Therefore, we need a robust oral health sensitization campaign because the risk for oral cancer, is fifteen times higher when the two main risk factors which are tobacco and alcohol consumption which are common in Liberia."
She said Liberia needs this campaign because over ninety percent of children here have not seen a dentist or had a dental treatment. "We need it because we have only seven dentists in Liberia and the ratio is one dentist to seven hundred thousand persons. A free government support, health and association, societal support, forming of prevention, infections and treatment programs can help avoid these problems. We also need to create relevant social programs to sensitize the public."
At the program, little Daniel Ireland, gave a testimony of his friend who died from toothache.
"Our friend had teeth and we told our grandmother and she sent him to see Dr. Cox at JFK for treatment and after his treatment, he was due back to the hospital on Monday when Dr. Cox did not see him at the hospital, she called Grandma, and when Grandma called his home to find out what happened, she found out that he was taken to the sick bush. Grandma made them bring him back to the hospital, but sadly a few days later, he died. The people in the community said it was poison because tooth could not just kill people like that."
Kormassa Baysay, a baby mother who had toothache when she was pregnant, also gave her experience during her pregnancy but she survived. Dr. Cox said they don't normally give pregnant women antibiotic, but due to Kormassa's case that survived a surgery, she took very strong antibiotics and it did not harm the baby whom she named Mr. JFK.
Dr. Taylor Neal, who is another Dentist said he and Dr. Cox are the only two Liberians dentists in the country and they are nearing retirement because they are old and cannot go on forever. "We are fading out, so we need more dentists and many of the Liberian dentists are in the US, so the government will have to offer salaries that will attract them home to come and work."
Some recommendations at the end of the program included calls for the ministries of health and Education to infuse oral health into the school's curriculum. Thus, many believe to make more medical persons be trained locally and internationally to become a Dentist.


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