|LETTER TO EDITOR
|Year : 2015 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 91-92
Developing economy, declining oral health, raising dental manpower: High time to implement National Oral Health Policy in India
BR Chandra Shekar
Department of Public Health Dentistry, JSS Dental College and Hospital, JSS University, Mysore - 570 015, Karnataka, India
|Date of Web Publication||19-Mar-2015|
Dr. B R Chandra Shekar
Department of Public Health Dentistry, JSS Dental College and Hospital, JSS University, Mysore - 570 015, Karnataka
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Chandra Shekar B R. Developing economy, declining oral health, raising dental manpower: High time to implement National Oral Health Policy in India. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2015;13:91-2
Jack Welch has named India as the "future of the global economy (GE) for the next century" along with China and Mexico. As the second largest economy in the Asian continent, India has implemented far reaching structural reforms that aim at deregulating the economy and shifting from a path of relatively protected inward looking industrialization to a new phase based on greater competition in the domestic markets, openness to trade and investment, and fuller integration with the GE.  A confident and resurgent Indian Industry is making forays into almost all the sectors of the economy. 
Although, the National Health Policy (NHP) in India was not framed until 1983, India has built up a vast health infrastructure and initiated several national health programs over last five decades in government, voluntary and private sectors under the guidance and direction of various committees.  The Indian Healthcare system has notched up several significant achievements over the last 50 years particularly in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality rate and success in dealing with various dreaded diseases.  Oral health affects general health by causing considerable pain and suffering. It influences what people eat, their speech, their quality of life and well-being. Although, oral health is an integral part of general health, it is a neglected entity among the policy makers. The lack of National Oral Health Policy in India even after 66 years postindependence supports this claim.
The increase in the number of dental colleges has resulted in an improvement in the dentist to population ratio. There was a marked improvement between the 1980s and 1990s, from 1:80,000 to 1:42,500. However, there is a widespread variation in the dentist to population ratio between rural and urban areas. The dentist population ratio in urban areas is 1:10,000 while, in rural areas, it is still 1:250000. Unfortunately, this dramatic turnaround in the dentist population ratio in the last few decades has not improved the oral health status of the general population. The sporadic studies have reported a rising level of dental diseases in India. 
The ever raising dental manpower has not significantly contributed to the improvement in the oral health status of the general population. This is partly attributed to the lack of organized oral health care delivery at public sector. Majority of the young dental graduates are expected to rely on private practice that has huge initial investment, which drives them to establish their practices in urban and semi urban areas leading to commercialization of dental practice. This may not contribute to the promotion of oral health in rural areas where majority of Indian population resides.  At present, the provision of adequate, respectable, and attractive employment opportunities to the workforce while maintaining a balanced geographical distribution is the main challenge and the root of all the issues facing the dental profession in India. The first significant step in this regard would be the implementation of National Oral Health Policy. Although, attempts have been made to include oral health policy as a component of NHP, the policy makers have not yet recognized this as critical to the promotion of overall health and wellbeing. Unless oral health is made an integral to general health, the World Health Organization social target of health for all will remain elusive.
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