Healthy Teeth for Better Child Health

World Vision has joined forces with local health institutions and primary schools to bring oral health check-ups to areas where a bad economic situation and ignorance prevent children and their families from accessing it. 

More than 1,050 primary school children will benefit from World Vision Bosnia-Herzegovina’s (WV BiH) latest project, Healthy Teeth for Better Child Health, that aims to advance children’s health with the improvement of oral hygiene and teeth health.

In a small local school in Jahorina ADP, two nurses are checking children's teeth. Children are sitting quietly in their seats, waiting for their names to be called. They are excited, but also a bit afraid. Some of them have never before visited a dentist, some visited only once.

After finishing all of the check-ups, the nurses smile at the children. “Next time we come, we want to see you with teeth as white as pearls,” one of them says, reminding children not to forget to wash their teeth.

Seven-year-old Bilal knows that he should wash his teeth three times per day. But sometimes he does not do it. ”This morning I forgot,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. He is not the only one. Research shows that only 16% of first graders wash their teeth. The percentage for second graders is even lower and stands at 7%. Until they finish primary school, only 42% of children in Jahorina ADP wash their teeth.  

Also, tests conducted prior to the start of the project showed that dental health of children in Jahorina ADP is much worse compared to the national level, by 57%. And even on the national level, the situation is not good: World Health Organization research from 2004 revealed that 91% of the children are affected by teeth cavities. 

There are many reasons why healthy teeth are important. This is not only an aesthetic issue, but healthy teeth are also important for helping to chew the right food (fresh fruit and vegetables) which contains important nutrients and fibre that help prevent many diseases. If teeth are not taken care of, cavities and unhealthy gums will make the mouth very sore and prevent a person from eating.

Healthy teeth also help children smile, which is important from a psychological point of view in order to promote socialization with peers.

“Most of the parents are not aware of the importance of oral health. Some have never taken their children to dentist,” says Amela Rakaj, social worker at primary school Hasan Turčalo Brzi in Ilovača, that has participated in the WV BiH project since 2011. “This is the unique opportunity for children to meet with the doctors,” she adds.

Head of the Dental Health Centre within the Clinic for Out-Patients in the town of Goražde, Dr. Emsudina Deljo agrees with her. “The state of the oral health in this area is very bad,” she says. Dr. Deljo refers to research that proves her statement, one of which shows that the teeth health index (DMFT) for six year olds is nine times worse in Bosnia and Herzegovina than in, for example, Denmark.

“My opinion is that people here have very low awareness of how important the oral health is,” she explains.

Despite the fact that not much time has passed since the start of the project, improvements can already be seen. “We have noticed an increase in the number of children who visit dentist. Many of them visited Dental Health Centre just after the check-ups in school,” says Dr. Deljo.

Besides the oral health check-ups, World Vision has also equipped three Dental Health Centres in Jahorina ADP. “The importance of equipment distributed to these facilities is enormous for two reasons: one being the support to local partners that have the best opportunity to work with children and improve their health, and second being launch of child friendly health activities that approach children through local primary schools and create positive habits of visiting clinics regularly. In other words we and local partners are doing our best to promote prevention instead of healing, through embracing children when they most need it,” says Zeljko Blagojevic, Jahorina ADP Manager.

The project Healthy Teeth for Better Child Health is supported by World Vision Taiwan.