MANILA, Philippines?Over 95 percent of first graders and nearly 80 percent of sixth grade students in the nation?s public schools suffer from tooth decay.
The Philippines is one of the Third World countries with the most alarming child dental problems, according to the Department of Education (DepEd) that conducted recently the National Oral Health Survey of 6- and 12-year-old public school children.
?The survey results illustrate how little we regard oral hygiene,? said Education Secretary Jesli A. Lapus.
The DepEd?s Health and Nutrition Center (HNC) blamed the problem on poor eating habits and lack of proper oral care education.
To promote oral health, the DepEd launched the ?7 o?clock daily tooth brushing habit? in all public elementary schools.
Under the program, ?all Grade 1 pupils are enjoined to brush their teeth at seven in the morning before the start of their classes,? said Lapus.
The oral health program is part of the Arroyo administration?s Health Education Reform Order that integrates preventive health measures in the education curriculum.
Lapus said ?the problem of tooth decay is severely affecting our pupils? performance in school. They cannot focus on learning. This is an alarming problem we need to address promptly through preventive and curative interventions such as the 7 o?clock tooth brushing habit.?
He said ?intensive education is one sure way of addressing common problems in oral health.?
Earlier, Lapus appealed to the country?s dental professionals to support the program.
Noting that Filipinos only visited a dentist as a last resort, Lapus said, ?As dental professionals, you can change that perception,? he said.
Colgate-Palmolive Phils., makers of Colgate toothpaste, is among the first to support the 7 o?clock daily tooth brushing campaign.
Under the three-year ?Bright Smiles, Bright Futures? program, Colgate-Palmolive is donating more than P70 million worth of toothpaste and toothbrushes to first grade students, and providing oral health education materials to public schools.
The DepEd said in a statement it had long collaborated with Colgate-Palmolive ?in creating oral health awareness among public school children,? benefiting since 1997 some 10 million public school children.
In February 2007, a total of 41,038 public school children in Manila, Cebu and Davao set a new Guinness Book world record for the most number of people brushing their teeth simultaneously.
The DepEd and Colgate-Palmolive will attempt to set another world record for the Philippines by making it ?the only country whose school children will have zero cavities.?
As part of the observance of the Oral Health Awareness Week, they launched early this month the ?Zero Cavities, Zero Waste? project that aims to ?foster care for both oral health and the environment by encouraging schools and students to recycle used toothpaste sachets and turn them into useful things, such as bags, wallets and school kits, among others.?
Lapus described the program as a ?creative way to encourage student participation in a worthy project that addresses two important concerns of our time?oral health and environmental protection.?
He said, ?The first one involves personal responsibility while the second involves societal concern.?
During simple rites at the DepEd headquarters in Pasig City, Lapus also inaugurated the Bright Smiles, Bright Futures (BSBF) Center of Excellence that ?will serve as a hub where the department and its partner institutions can plan and fine tune programs that promote oral health care.?
The event was attended by Colgate-Palmolive top executives, including president and general manager Lucie Claire Vincent, marketing director Bong David and BSBF manager Jac Saez; Education Undersecretary Vilma Labrador, Adopt-a-School Program executive director Mari Paul Soriano, HNC director Thelma Navarrez, and Dr. Raman Bedi of the Global Dental Health Task Force.