According to the Nigerian Association of Paediatric Dentistry (NAPD), Nigeria currently has only 84 qualified paediatric dentists available to provide care for its children.
In a statement to the press on Sunday, Ify Adegbulugbe, the National President of NAPD, highlighted the challenges in children's oral healthcare, stating, "There are numerous challenges facing oral healthcare for children, and presently, there are only 84 paediatric dentists serving the needs of children in Nigeria."
Adegbulugbe, a dental surgeon, pointed out that this number of paediatric dentists is insufficient considering the country's population.
During an online media session aimed at addressing the oral healthcare challenges in Nigeria, she also expressed concern about the emigration of well-trained and certified paediatric dentists, which contributes to a brain drain in this field.
She emphasized that this situation has led to difficulties in providing accessible and efficient oral healthcare services in Nigeria.
“The cost of providing and accessing dental care is expensive and the burden is on patients.
“This is because the equipment for treatment and restoration are not made in Nigeria and there is no tax rebate or anything in place to make the cost lesser.
“People need to practise safe oral habits, especially for children by going for routine dental checks and not wait until there is a problem or when the child is in pain,” she said.
The dental surgeon called for the implementation of the National Oral Health Policy of 2012 to ensure proper process and administration of oral healthcare in terms of awareness, early detection and prompt treatment.
Also speaking during the session, Morenike Folayan, a Professor of Paediatric Dentistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun, advocated that oral health be included in covered by the National Health Insurance scheme.
Folayan said the coverage would increase access and reduce the cost of dental care.
She identified tooth decay, bleeding and swollen gum and trauma or injury to the teeth and gum as some of the oral health issues in children requiring prompt and adequate care.
“Oral health should be instituted from childhood. If not done, the dental issues transit to adolescence and to adulthood and continue to affect the lives of the affected.
“We urge the media to advocate the inclusion of oral health in health insurance because things like scaling and polishing of teeth are life-changing and impactful and not only for aesthetics,’’ Folayan said.