The 2017 Public Health Think Tank examined oral and dental health in the UAE. This issue was recognized as one of the top 10 health priorities by the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) following their release of statistics on the state of oral and dental health in the nation. Studies show that 41.2% of nationals and 35.9% of residents suffer from tooth decay, and that the UAE has a mean dmft (decayed missing filled teeth) that is higher than the world average. These facts are particularly troubling when considering the vital role that oral and dental health play in general wellbeing and quality of life.
To tackle this multifaceted issue, the PHTT assembled a diverse range of speakers. Dr. Peter Loomer, the Chair of the Department of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry at the New York University College of Dentistry, delivered a fascinating presentation on the technical aspects of detecting and managing periodontitis. Dr. Manal Awad, a professor at the Preventive and Restorative Dentistry Department at the University of Sharjah, spoke about the prevalence and prevention of caries among children in the UAE. Our final speaker, Dr. Shiamaa Al Mashhadani, a member of the Dental Services Department at the Dubai Health Authority, discussed her work with the Dubai Smiles Healthy initiative. She also spearheaded the first oral health survey for the emirate of Dubai in 2013. In addition to these keynote presentations, Andrea Leinberger-Jabari and Thaddeus Stegall also led workshops on designing effective public health interventions and on public speaking respectively.
A record number of participants took part in the fourth iteration of the PHTT. Coming from universities across the nation, these undergraduate students applied the information from the presentations in formulating innovative solutions to the problem of bad oral and dental health in the UAE. Their final intervention proposals ranged from points-based smartphone applications to mobile dental health clinics. The winning proposal, presented by Team Ras Al-Khaimah, was chosen by a panel of expert judges including Dr. Alexandra Dimitri, the Academic and Higher Education Senior Manager at the Fatima College for Health Sciences, and Dr. Yousif Al Zaabi, a Senior Oral Health Officer from the Department of Health.
Team Ras Al-Khaimah’s presentation proposed the incorporation of oral health into the moral education curriculum within public schools. Pilot lessons for children were conducted by the team at the Youth Hub in Dubai in April 2018. They also attended the 2018 Global Summit and Expo on Oral & Dental Diseases in Abu Dhabi, where they gave a poster presentation on their proposed intervention.