Milestone as Brunei produces first batch of dental therapists
Dental hygienists cum therapists are being trained "to address the huge dental decay and gum disease burden amongst the population of Brunei Darussalam".
Pehin Orang Kaya Indera Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Awg Haji Suyoi bin Haji Osman, Minister of Health (MoH), said this as he spoke at the Inaugural Convocation Ceremony for Diploma in Dental Hygiene and Therapy yesterday.
"This truly is a giant leap for the Oral Health Services in the country because for the first time the Ministry of Health is able to produce our own local dental hygienists who are capable of meeting the high standards that are set by King's College, London, which is an internationally renowned institution for dental education," the minister said.
"This is a significant first step towards being self-reliant in producing dental therapists to meet our dental human capital target.
"This strategy is in line with the policy of the Ministry of Health, which is to increase the accessibility and availability of oral healthcare to all Bruneians, with emphasis on education and prevention.
"It also meets one of the Dental Department's main goals of optimising accessibility of Oral Health Services to the community, as clearly spelled out in the Oral Health Agenda 2008-2012," said the minister.
The ceremony was held by the Department of Dental Services, Ministry of Health, and took place at the Dewan Utama of the Royal Brunei Polo & Riding Club in Jerudong, and saw eight graduates receiving their Diplomas for Dental Hygiene and Therapy after completing a three-year course, which was organised by the Department of Dental Services with the cooperation of King's College in London.
The Minister of Health was the guest of honour at the event. Also present were Deputy Minister of Health, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Haji Awang Hazair bin Haji Abdullah, Dato Paduka Haji Abd Salam bin Abd Momin, Permanent Secretary at the MoH, and Haji Daud bin Haji Mahmud, Permanent Secretary, Higher Education, Ministry of Education.
Also present were director generals, directors, chief executive officers, senior officers, graduates and their families.
"The treatment of tooth decay in children can now be carried out by dental therapists and the majority of gum diseases can be treated by dental hygienists," said the minister.
"It is more cost effective to train dental hygienists/therapists rather than dentists to provide simple treatment for dental caries and periodontal disease, which are the major oral health needs of the population here," the minister said.
The minister also revealed that there are presently nine trainees in the second cohort who are undergoing the same training and are set to graduate next year.
"Further intake of candidates into the training programme will continue in the future with the recruitment of 10 trainees per year in order to meet the targeted ratio of dental therapist to population aged 18 years and under at 1:800."
According to the minister, as this is the estimated dental manpower required to meet the oral health needs of Brunei's younger population, the initiation of "this innovative programme is fully justifiable not only from the health perspective but also from the social point of view".
"It is important to remember that such local training opportunity will undoubtedly attract others who are looking for careers in dentistry and therefore will provide our youth with more career choices and offer them an excellent opportunity to be associated with the health profession."
The minister then spoke of how "the Dental Department must ensure its sustainability including the availability of various essential resources, finance, manpower, related infrastructures and equipment" now that the training programme has started.
"One option is of rendering the training programme to be more cost-effective is to consider collaboration with other institutions in the country such as the Institute of Medicine, UBD."
The minister also spoke of "the possibility of further developing and advancing the local training programme in the future", where having local training facilities available would allow a flexible training protocol to be "incorporated into the core curriculum so that various training options may be made available to cater to the training needs of the other categories of operating and non-operating dental ancillaries".
"In addition, once the training programme is firmly established, the option of admitting international students, especially those from the Asia-Pacific region, may be explored," added Pehin Suyoi.
"This will enhance the spirit of mutual cooperation between the Asean countries and will definitely raise the status of Brunei Darussalam as a centre for academic excellence and as a direct contributor to oral health in the region and internationally." (Borneo Bulletin)