Mexico’s Unique Dental Alliance
MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The opening ceremony of the 53rd AMIC Dental Expo showed that Mexico has achieved a unique alliance, supported and coordinated by the Mexican Dental Industry Association (AMIC Dental), which includes the main dental college and professional association in the country, as well the government's top health officials at the federal and city levels, among many others.
At the long table of dignataries at the entrance to the expo were the presidents of the Mexican Dental Industry Association (AMIC Dental), the Mexican Dental Association (ADM), the UNAM Dental School, Mexico's government Secretary for Oral Health, and Mexico City's Health Secretary, among other partners who form this strategic oral health alliance.
Much work to be done
Mexico City's public health system has 149 dental clinics, 336 estomatologic clinics, and 338 a team of dental surgeons, but in a metropolis of over 18 million people much work remains to be done.
Mexico City's Health Secretary, Dr. Armando Ahued Ortega, who opened the expo, said that oral pathologies are a public health problem that affects individuals and communities alike, and not only at the oral level.
"A dental pathology usually points to a general health problem", Dr. Ahued said, "which makes it mandatory to promote, prevent, and control the health of Mexico City's population."
The expert said that health surveys show that "dental health damage has a cumulative effect, so a child of between 3 and 7 years old in Mexico City already has dental caries. If not treated, there's a risk of damage in one tooth per year. In the adult population, the caries rate is between 90 and 95%."
Oral health problems provoke chewing difficulties, and are associated with malignacies such as malnutrition, joint atrophy, depression, lack of self-esteem and social isolation, he said, which result in low quality of life. In addition, oral health pathologies can affect the general health, wasting needed health resources that could be used more effectively, and causing loss of work and school days.
"We face the enormous challenge of educating our population, reducing lack of access to treatment, providing preventive and restaurative services, and actively involving the population in oral self-care," Dr. Ahued said.
He thanked the leading dental industry association for providing 300 free passes to the AMIC expo for Mexico City's public health dentists, and for establishing a partnership policy to help the population most in need of dental treatment. He also mentioned that AMIC provided over 7,000 grants to UNAM dental students across the country, and has joined with other organizations to offer CE courses as well.
The health official added that Mexico City's government is intent in introducing, as part of the high school curriculum, a mandatory health course because "we are convinced that self-care should start in childhood."
UNAM: 100-year anniversary
Dr. Javier de la Fuente, dean of UNAM Dental School, one of the largest in the world with 3,000 dental students, said the dental industry, the academic world and the government have joined efforts to improve oral care in a way never seen before.
"We are united on the topic of equal access to oral health treatment", said De la Fuente, "in providing the Mexican population with the same access and quality treatment."
Dr. De la Fuente, whose university is marking 100 years of its foundation in 2010, added that this can only be achieved with this type of partnership: "When the university, its academics and teachers get together with those who decide health politics, with the backing of the industry." UNAM has reached several international exchage agreements with other dental colleges, the latest with the dental school of Spain's Universidad Complutense.
"We can now realistically think", De la Fuente said, "that the future of oral health care has a solution through this strategic partnership with the Mexican Dental Association (ADM), with the city's and federal health secretaries, and with the industry."
"Without these partners," he added, "our dental college would not be able to do more than what it does in its classrooms and clinics. The president of AMIC, Ayub Safar, has showed an important committment in offering our students and graduates these fundamental spaces and grants that are vital to their practices."
Dr. Jaime Edelson, president of ADM, said that Mexico City's health system is larger than that of many countries, which makes it a great challenge to provide oral health services. He also acknowledged the important role of AMIC's president in improving the expo, as well as in obtaining for Mexico the FDI World Dental Congress in 2011. The Mexican Dental Association, comprised of 120 colleges throughout the country, offers CE courses to improve professional education.
Mexico's Secretary for Oral Health at the federal level, Dr. Heriberto Vera Hermosillo, said the government is conducting a Mexico City health survey "that will allow us to understand oral health needs." He pointed out that it's an ambitious program since the combined populations of countries such as Chile and Uruguay are less than Mexico City. "That's the magnitude of the challenge we face", he said.
For the federal government, he said, the work of the industry and of the dentists who come to AMIC to further improve themselves is very important. "This congress will improve the quality of oral health in Mexico, were the average elderly population has lost ten dental pieces".
The industry leads the way
AMIC Dental president Ayub Safar said that the 7,000 grants AMIC provided to UNAM Dental College students will help bridge the gap in oral health treatment.
"The dental industry generates 400,000 jobs nationwide", said Safar, "for the over 125,000 dentists in Mexico, of which over 80,000 are in public, academic and private practice. Our association groups together over 100 national and transnational dental companies, offering cutting edge technology, as well as dental equipment at the best rates, contributing significantly to the Mexican economy with 2.1% of our country's GDP".