The College of Dentistry marked recently its centennial year in a time of great change and challenge for the beleaguered dental profession and the health of the nation as a whole. The dismal state of oral health in the Philippines belies the Filipinos’ pride in their wide, healthy smiles that do not reflect at all a genuinely good state of oral wellness.
At the occasion’s launch on Feb. 6 held at the UPCD Auditorium, Dean Vicente Medina lamented the government’s neglect of oral health and pushed anew for coverage of dental services in the Kalusugang Pangkalahatan program. The dental alumni, faculty and students pressed the government for an integrated and prevention-focused oral health program with adequate financial and facility support.
The UPCD dean shared the results of a National Monitoring and Evaluation Dental Survey conducted by the Department of Health in 2011 showing that 87% of Filipinos (83 million) suffering from tooth decay based on the same year’s population. He also bared statistics showing that 77% or more than 7 out of 10 Filipinos have never even been to a dentist.
The state of oral health in the country was echoed by UPM Chancellor Carmencita Padilla in a message read by Vice Chancellor Dr. Eva Cutiongco Dela Paz and by UP Dental Alumni Association President and Centennial Celebration Chair Dr. Jocelyn Tan. Chancellor Padilla bewailed the big percentage of Filipinos who do not consult a dentist and do not recognize the importance of oral hygiene in overall health.
“It is not surprising that highly preventable dental problems, such as dental caries and periodontal diseases, are still prevalent to this day. Intensive efforts need to be done to turn this situation around,” she intoned. She stated that as the country’s leading dental school, the College of Dentistry is in a position to exert more strongly its national role in dental education and training, policy setting, research, and community service in the years to come. To be able to do this, it should engage more actively in collaborative programs to help ensure quality, affordable, accessible and available oral health to all Filipinos. She urged the alumni to take an active part in the joint programs.
For her part, Dr. Tan reported the alarming results of a study that 9 out of ten Filipinos suffer from dental caries and worse, the Philippines has the 2nd worst rate of decayed, missing and filled teeth in all of Asia.
“Oral health cannot be seen as separate from our total health and hygiene.” She acknowledged that even as experts in oral health, they cannot do it alone. “We need the support and cooperation of everyone – the parents, the educators and ordinary citizens. And that’s the reason for Smile Pilipinas,” she said.
Launched during the commencement rites, the nationwide campaign Smile Pilipinas is one of several advocacy programs for the centennial celebration that aim to “bring back the healthy smiles of Filipinos.” It is being conducted in partnership with UPDAA and Procter and Gamble’s Oral-B, who is a major partner of UPCD in the centennial activities. The program aims to promote and improve oral health among Filipinos with focus on three areas, namely Advocacy, Public Good and Fundraising and through free dental services and information and education activities.
Among the initial activities under the Smile Pilipinas campaign was the SuperSmileCon2015, an oral wellness fair for kids held at the SM Megatrade Hall. Dr. Tan reported that the fair was jampacked with more than a thousand kids and adults availing of such activities as story telling, puppet shows, magic show, acrobatics show, kiddie play, singing and dancing, dental consultations, health and dental education, dental varnish application, and parent empowerment.
Another was the Unang Ngipin Patibayin, a partnership with the towns of Pateros and Pasig to provide education to parents and preventive measures for 0-3 aged children.
Other Centennial Activities
Apart from Smile Pilipinas, the centennial commemoration provided a mix of educational, scientific, and socio-cultural activities held in 2014 and with more slated for 2015 and even in 2016.
The two-day Continuing Education Centennial lectures featured UPCD alumni and foreign speakers on varied topics. They were Prof. Jean Francis Roulet, Dept. of Restorative Dental Sciences, University of Florida; Periodontics Assoc. Prof. Axel Spahr, Sydney Dental Hospital; Assoc. Dean Daniel Chan, Clinical Services, Washington Dental Service Endowed Chair and Director, IDDS Program and Professor, Restorative Dentistry , University of Washington; Dr. Alex Chung, Fellow, Royal College of Dentists of Canada and Diplomate, American Board of Orthodontics; Dr. Joy Lua, Former Director, Preclinical Fixed Prosthodontics, University of Minnesota; Dr. Regina Minutello, former Asst. Prof., Loma Linda University; and Dr. James Minutello, Diplomate, American Board of Periodontology.
There were bazaars, art exhibits, a golf tournament and an alumni art exhibition that highlighted about 40 beautiful artworks and crafts at the 4th floor of the UPCD building.
The centennial alumni homecoming with the theme “UPCD at 100: Celebrating a Century of Smiles” served as culminating activity in recognition of the alumni – the thousands of men and women who were shaped by this institution to become the leaders and movers of the profession as a vital part of the nation’s health.
Dr. Tan happily reported during the homecoming that so far, a total of P5 million has been raised from over 400 alumni who heeded the call for donations for the UPCD Endowment and Development Fund. The unveiling of the Centennial Wall of Donors and the Centennial Marker and Time Capsule, an initiative of the Class of 85, was made during the launch.
She stated that an additional P10M is being targeted for 2015. The Annual Alumni Giving Program encourages regular annual contributions to UPCD for its upkeep, staff development, research and development and calls on all its alumni to devote 100 hours yearly for free service.
Dr. Tan said that three more centennial lectures will be held on August 31 and November 9, 2015, and Feb. 3, 2016. Four more public good projects will also be rolled out this year to include a Community Dental Outreach on June 3 and a Libreng Pustiso Outreach Mission on August 5 and 6. School age kids will be urged to drink water instead of sugary drinks in the Tubig para sa Kalusugan Program.
These advocacy programs have a common goal: to increase the Filipinos’ access to oral wellness services and improve significantly the dental health of all Filipinos.