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Insufficient Oral Healthcare: An Overlooked Public Health Crisis in Morocco

Oral health is an indicator for overall health and quality of life, but in Morocco, it is an overlooked aspect of hygiene and healthcare.

Amsterdam  – Oral health is affected by diet, nutrition, tobacco use, knowledge on general health, and diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Bad oral health leads to cavities, tooth decay, bad breath, and gum diseases like periodontitis. Bad oral health is also associated with risks for Alzheimer’s and heart disease and systemic health problems.

In a country where cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes account for 58 percent of the mortality rate, oral health needs to be discussed as a matter of public health. Lack of oral hygiene and consuming sugary products or sweet sodas lead to oral cavities. When left untreated, this may lead to tooth decay, missing teeth, and gingival diseases.

Periodontitis is an irreversible aggressive form of gum disease.

Oral hygiene and the associated habits must be incorporated from a young age. It should become a routine, a personal tradition, that is then maintained throughout one’s life.

In Morocco, children in orphanages are at high risk for oral diseases. Children’s oral health practices are dependent on their parents. Low rates of toothbrush use are observed in studies of mothers and their children. In this instance, the mothers displayed very inefficient brushing techniques.

In Sale, a neighboring city to Rabat, the mothers’ own knowledge of the practice of dental hygiene was investigated and shown to be related to children’s oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene practices were associated with the mother’s educational level and the child’s health status.

The Moroccan Mother and Child units serve as a basis to offer counselling for mothers regarding general health. This could function as a resource for incorporating dental hygiene and oral health programs into public services.

With regard to adolescents, a research group from the Department of Odontology at Mohammed V University in Rabat showed that of a study with 450 participants, 86 percent had at least one untreated dental cavities even though 82.3 percent of the study population had dental health covered by their insurance. This indicates that oral health is not only related to medical insurance, but possibly other factors.  

Morocco has a high prevalence of periodontitis in young people. In 2016, a Moroccan study group concluded that the young Moroccan population is at high risk for developing aggressive periodontal disease. Therefore, it is plausible that, due to the nature of the disease, the same applies to older populations.

A Spanish oral health research group conducted a study on patients with periodontitis, wherein 62 percent had aggressive periodontitis and 14 percent had chronic periodontitis. The bacteria co-responsible for developing periodontitis was  present in 60 percent of a study population consisting of Moroccan adolescents.

It is assumed that Moroccans are more susceptible to periodontitis; biological elements such as genetics and the oral flora play a role in contributing to the increased risk. Likewise, a lack of proper oral hygiene, limited access to dental healthcare, the irregular use of toothbrushes and toothpaste in rural settings and low income families, and inadequate knowledge on significance of oral health factor into this widespread public health issue.