Saudi Arabia - An ongoing oral health promotion programme

Ministry of Health

Public oral health programmes are very important in prevention and control of oral diseases e.g. dental caries and periodontal diseases. For this reason many diseases preventive programmes are organized by the Dental Directorate, Ministry of Health Saudi Arabia. These programmes are aimed at community oral health promotion.

These programmes include:

1. The National Oral Health programme for Primary School Children
This programme was started in the year 2005 in primary schools all over the country with active cooperation between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and sponsored by the Modern Products Company (Crest). The programme involves 1st grade primary school children all over the Kingdom where dentists train the teachers on the basics of oral health maintenance and the teachers in turn train their students aboutthesebasics of oral hygiene. This programme is implemented because there is a special relationship between teachers and students that facilitate the spread of the oral health education message throughout the country due thelarge number of teachers postedall over the Kingdom.
The programme not only includes dental health education but also several activities aimed at that specific age group. These include, group brushing sessions, visits to dental clinics and visits to shopping centres to identify cariogenic and non-cariogenic food items. Student activities like drawing painting and model making are also part of the programme.

Parent education is also a component of the program. Leaflets and booklets directed at the parents are an important aspect of the whole campaign. We aim to make daily brushing by the child under the supervision of the parents a regular morning routine and distribution of tooth brushes and pastes is part of that endeavour.

All these activities are conducted to make oral health part of the daily teaching activity and spread oral health awareness among the children.

2. Ante-natal Preventive Dentistry Program
The programme started in 1993 at te dental clinics of primary health care centres and hospitals in cooperation with the Obstetrics & Gynecology department of the centres. This programme includes:

  • Dental health education lectures aimed at maintaining good oral health during pregnancy and infancy.
  • Periodic check-up during pregnancy (every 3 months)
  • Oral hygiene instructions and dietary counselling.

3. Oral health Programme for Pre-school Children
This programme was started in 1993 in the clinics of primary health centres and hospitals in coordination with healthy child clinics. The prime objective of this programme is to check and monitor the eruption dates and sequence of eruption of deciduous and permanent teeth. The programme also aims to educate the mothers about proper diet, deleterious oral habits and the need for regular check-up and prompt treatment of dental diseases for children.

4. Health Tents Campaign
This is a health education activity where health tents are put up at big markets and shopping malls in cities for a limited period of time before moving to other locations. Dental check-up of visitors is done in these health tents so as to facilitate early diagnosis of dental diseases. Announcements are made through public address systems educating the public on the importance of early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Posters, booklets, audiovisual messages are part of the programme. Topical fluoride application for children is also done for children in the health tents.

5. Pit and Fissure Sealant Programmes
The programme was started in 1996 in the dental clinics of primary health care centres and hospitals. The programme involves application of pit and fissure sealants on the posterior teeth of children in the age group of 3- 13 years. The aim of the programme is prevention of caries and to maintain the teeth in oral cavity for their functional longevity.

6. Topical Fluoride Application Programme
The programme was also started in 1996 in the dental clinics of primary health care centres and hospitals. It is conducted by dentists and dental hygienists where bi-annual topical application of fluoride is done in children in the age group of 3-13 years in deciduous, mixed and permanent dentition stages.

7. Oral Health Weeks
These oral health weeks are conducted in the beginning of the school year at most health regions of the Kingdom and involve activities by other dental service providers like the private sector, universities, educational institutions and other govt. dental health sectors. Dental health education lectures and distribution of tooth brushes and pastes are also part of the programme. This programme is conducted to make the public aware of oral health problems and how to avoid them.

8. Community Oral Health Education:
This programme is conducted to spread oral health messages through festivals, media, magazines and newspapers.

We thank Dr. Mohammed AL-Rafee, Director, Directorate of Dental Services, Saudi Arabia (2007) and Dr. Rafi A Togoo for providing us with this presentation and pictures of the programmes.