Prof Morenike Ukpong
Prof Morenike Ukpong

A don, Prof. Morenike Ukpong, says prolonged breastfeeding can cause dental caries in children.

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is the breakdown of teeth due to acid made by bacteria.

Ukpong, a Professor of Paediatric Dentistry at Department of Child Dental Health, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said in Abuja on Wednesday that caries was the only disadvantage of prolonged breastfeeding.

She spoke on the sideline of the 2019 National Oral Health Week, adding that “global evidence suggests that when children are breastfed for more than two years, there is a great risk of the children having caries.

“Even though we encourage breastfeeding, there is a need to pass the message to mothers in such a way that they will understand because caries can affect the development of a child.”

The don said caries was a problem that could be treated in adults but could affect the quality and psychological life of children.

“Evidence is that when a child has a hole in the mouth, it will significantly affect his/her life.

“It does not only reduce the quality of life, it results in children not developing properly; it also increases the risk of malnutrition.

“In addition, the pain can cause stress and hormonal changes that also impact on the psychological development of a child.”

Ukpong, also a Consultant with the Federal Ministry of Health on National Oral Health Policy, said that the policy was going through validation by stakeholders.

She said the stakeholders met on Tuesday in Abuja to review the policy that was developed in 2012 “because of evidence of rising prevalence and burden of oral health problems.

“We have to revise it in view of changes in practice, both locally and globally. There is a recent declaration that oral disease is not a communicable disease so there are a lot of policies on oral and dental health care.”

According to her, the revised policy will be ready in January.

An oral health policy helps to harness political, economic, social or cultural factors at the individual, family, community, national and international levels to address oral health needs.

In addition, she spoke on the need for the country to conduct a National Oral Health Survey to monitor and evaluate the progress of the country in oral health.

“The last oral survey we did was in 1995 and it was a pilot survey and after that, we have not had a National Oral Health Survey.

“If we had, we would know where we are in terms of prevalence and disease burden.

“Generally on a global scale, the World Health Organisation is saying that while oral health burden and prevalence is decreasing in other parts of the world, it is increasing in developing countries.”

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