In addition to providing dental treatment, the teams involved in the Smiling Brazil program work to prevent oral disease. Data from the Ministry of Health reveal that 45% of the population fails to use a toothbrush and toothpaste.
According to the Ministry’s National Coordinator of Oral Hygiene, Gilberto Pucca, the reason this occurs is not only lack of orientation but also because people don’t have the money to buy the basic instruments of oral hygiene.
“It’s worthless to teach prevention, if people don’t use a toothbrush and toothpaste regularly. This applies to almost half the Brazilian population,” Pucca affirms.
The Smiling Brazil program, which was inaugurated in the beginning of 2003, serves approximately 42 million Brazilians. The government plans to spend US$ 453 million (1.3 billion reais) in the area of oral hygiene through 2006.
As part of the program, the Ministry of Health initiated the distribution of toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Another aspect of the program is the addition of fluoride to public water supplies.
The Ministry of Health intends to fluoridate water in all Brazilian cities that already have water treatment systems.
“Fluoridation of public water supplies reduces tooth decay by over 50%. And this is the chief cause of tooth loss in Brazil. More than 70 million people currently receive fluoridated water from public supplies. By the end of Lula’s mandate we plan to invest US$ 6.9 million (20 million reais) to attain 100% of these municipalities,” Pucca avowed.
Lack of Dental Care
A Ministry of Health survey has found that only 55% of Brazilian adolescents have all their teeth. Among adults, the figure rises to 54%. All together, there are some 30 million Brazilians who do not have all their teeth.
The survey was made at the beginning of the year and found that besides missing teeth there is an epidemic of cavities and an enormous need for dental care. The survey found that it is hard to find free government-provided dental care.
As a result, on March 17, the government launched the Brazil Smile program to distribute dentalcare kits (toothbrushes and toothpaste) to 500,000 public school students.
By 2006, the program should spend US$ 400 million, build 354 dentalcare centers in municipalities and set up 559 dental offices as part of the government’s Family Health Plan.
It is estimated that 45% of Brazilians do not use toothbrushes and 13% of the country’s adolescents have never been to the dentist.
With the Brazil Smile program the number of government buccal health teams should more than double to 16,000 by the year 2006.
Another objective of the program is to provide fluoridation nationwide. Adding fluor to water is cheap; it costs around 30 cents (1 real) per year per inhabitant. At the moment, slightly less than half the population of Brazil (70 million) has water with fluor.
The president of the Federal Odontological Council, Miguel Nobre, says that Brazil has a good dentist-to-population ratio (1 to 1,000; the World Health Organization recommends 1 to 1,500) and that the best cure is prevention.
He says the tooth villain has always been sugar, but people insist on eating sugar. “That is all right. What you cannot do is eat sugar without brushing your teeth,” he says.
The Brazil Smile program will provide complete dental treatment, including periodontal care, surgery, orthodontic procedures, and assistance with buccal lesions and cancer.