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Celebrating the unsung heroes of our smiles

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Oral health is the unsung hero of our overall well-being (Caroline LM - Unsplash)

By: Dr. Sofya Zulkiffli, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noor Azlin Yahya, Dr. Anas Hakimee Ahmad Ubaidillah

As the globe gears up to celebrate World Oral Health Day on March 20th, it’s the perfect occasion to cast a spotlight on the often-overlooked champions of our dental well-being. These are the tireless guardians of our radiant smiles – the expansive community of dental professionals. This diverse group encompasses everyone from the specialists who tackle complex dental issues, to the general dentists who guide our daily oral hygiene, dental nurses, technicians, radiologists, and the academicians shaping the future of dental care.

Oral health is the unsung hero of our overall well-being. Far beyond the aesthetic appeal of a sparkling smile, it plays a pivotal role in our general health. Neglected oral hygiene can spiral into serious complications like gum disease and tooth decay, and can even be a contributing factor to systemic diseases such as heart conditions and diabetes. Research published by Newcastle University in 2021 indicates that poor oral health, including conditions like tooth loss, periodontal disease, dry mouth, and self-rated oral health, is associated with increased risks of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality, and respiratory mortality in older individuals.

Enter the dental workforce, the dedicated professionals who arm us with the necessary preventative care, timely interventions, and wisdom to maintain a good oral health. At the forefront are dental specialists, experts in fields such as restorative, orthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, and more. Their precision and expertise tackle even the most challenging dental issues. General dentists, our frequent allies, play a crucial role in early detection and prevention. According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, they do this by offering preventive services, educating patients, detecting issues promptly, and promoting overall health through comprehensive oral care. Their proactive approach helps individuals maintain optimal oral health and contributes to their general well-being.

However, the stars of dental care aren’t just those who meet the eye. Dental nurses and technicians, who made up the majority of the industry, are the real unsung heroes behind the curtain, ensuring the seamless execution of procedures and the crafting of bespoke dental solutions. In addition, dental radiologists are also essential in modern dentistry as they enable accurate diagnosis, treatment planning, early detection of dental issues, evaluation of tooth development, assessment of oral structures, and benefit from technological advancements that enhance diagnostic capabilities and patient care.

Last but not least, we must also tip our hats to the dental academicians. These academicians and researchers serve as the foundational builders of tomorrow, shaping aspiring dental professionals into the forthcoming frontline defenders of oral health. Their commitment to pushing the boundaries of dental science ensures that the field continues to evolve, marrying tradition with innovation.

On World Oral Health Day, let us pause to salute these dedicated individuals across the dental workforce. From the academic mentors to the practitioners on the front lines, their collective passion, skill, and relentless pursuit of excellence keep our smiles not just beautiful, but healthy.

But beyond the accolades, what truly defines the day-to-day for these professionals? It’s a complex intertwines of early morning appointments to unforeseen urgencies, a dynamic landscape of challenges and victories. Amidst their meticulous work, they forge meaningful connections, transforming patient care into moments of genuine fulfilment. Each restored smile, each preserved tooth, speaks volumes of their dedication and expertise.

So, let’s extend our deepest gratitude to these unsung heroes. Their unwavering commitment brightens smiles and fortifies health. Here’s to the dental workforce – the steadfast guardians of our smiles.

Thank you for nurturing the smiles that light up the world, today and every day.

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The authors are Restorative Specialists at the Restorative Department, Faculty of Dentistry, Universiti Malaya.

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