Desy Nurhayati , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Tue, 03/18/2008 1:13 AM
Most people don't pay enough attention to their teeth and oral health and only visit the dentist when they begin to feel pain, the Indonesian Dentists Association says.
Lack of awareness has lead to an increase in dental and oral-related illnesses which have disrupted people's lives, the association says.
Tooth disease, including cavities and decay, has become widespread and is currently suffered by around 60 percent of the population, association chairman Emmyr F. Moeis said Monday.
"Around 62.4 percent of Indonesians are disturbed by tooth and oral problems which has the potential to cause the economy to suffer," he said.
Emmyr was speaking at the opening of the 23rd National Congress of Dentists, presided over by Vice President Jusuf Kalla. The congress, themed "Excellence and Innovation in Public Dentistry", will be held in Surabaya, East Java, between March 19 and 22.
According to a survey by the association in 2001, toothaches caused the average Indonesian to lose 3.86 workdays a month, he said.
"This condition has affected people's per-capita income," he said.
An employer with a star-rated hotel in Jakarta, Ahmad Junaidi, said not many employees had taken leave due to a toothache.
"Maybe there were one or two, but we don't check case by case," he said.
He said he had never seen a sick-leave note from a doctor stating an employee needed days off because of a toothache.
Caries, or tooth decay, is the most common tooth disease and can create an entrance for other more problematic diseases.
Around 70 percent of people aged above 10 years experienced tooth decay, a survey conducted by the Health Ministry found. Decay was recorded in some 43.9 percent of 12-year-olds, 51.1 percent of 18-year-olds, 80.1 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds and 96.7 percent of people over the age of 65.
In his opening speech, Kalla urged dentists to improve their services by giving thorough explanations and paying more attention to patients.
Kalla acknowledged the inadequate number of specialist doctors (including dentists), and said the government expected the number to grow to cope with the country's increasing population.
More specialists, he said, should improve the availability and quality of services.
There are currently some 16,786 practicing dentists nationwide registered with the Indonesian Doctors Council. The dental association says the country needs around 22,500 dentists.