‘Nigeria Needs More Awareness On Oral Hygiene’

Like one of those patriots who never forget their fatherland even in the midst of plenty, Mrs. Folashade Ajayi-Akinsulire, an Oral Hygienist with over 25 years experience in the field in the United Kingdom, is back in the country to change Nigerians’ orientation about Oral hygiene. She is a member, British Society of Dental Hygiene Therapists, United Kingdom; member, Medical Dental Defence Union and a registered member with UK General Dental Council.

She spoke with LAOLU ADEYEMI on her plans for Nigeria’s dental health.

Growing up as a child, Folashade Ajayi-Akinsulire had witnessed the pathetic case of a couple, her family’s friends, who almost broke up because of  their child’s dental deformity. The incident left such a strong impression on young Folashade that she resolved to study dental health.

Her daily encounters with many Nigerians who had challenges in oral hygiene but limited access to dental care also influenced her decision to settle for the course.   She eventually pursued this course at the Dental School, Enugu and became a Dental Therapist.

Today, Folashade Ajayi-Akinsulire, is a Professional Dental Hygienist with over 25 years sojourn into the business of helping people to maintain good oral hygiene both at government and private practice in the United Kingdom. She had practiced briefly in Nigeria before relocating to United Kingdom.

Folashade went further to obtain a degree in Psychotherapy and Counseling.

A psychotherapist, according to her, deals with psychological issues which everybody passes through in life.

She explained: “Many people live with challenges of mental illnesses in different ways. It could be with anxiety, people with low self-esteem, abuse issues, bereavement that lead to metal instability. In a nutshell, psychotherapy is about mental illness issues”.

Ajayi-Akinsulire maintained that dental hygiene is very much a combination of psychology and clinical practice. This better explained her reason for studying psychotherapy and Counseling. “My everyday encounter with patients made me pursued another degree in that”.

One of the things she enjoys most in the practice was meeting and working with patients and educating them. “My ability to help individuals make sound choices on their oral health, being involved in dental hygiene education and the interaction with an array of dynamic individuals make me feel fulfilled.”

However working 32 hours a week and balancing that with domestic responsibilities was quite challenging.

“A typical full-time workweek in dentistry is 32 hours. Many dental offices work a 4-day workweek. Averagely, I work for 32-35 hours per week treating patients and keeping up with the other duties that go along with the clinical aspect like sterilization of instruments, writing up charts and others.”

Ajayi-Akinsulire insisted that maintaining job pressures, keeping schedules and time management are very challenging, especially when relying on others schedules and changes that everyday life brings.

Dental hygenists, she said, perform a variety of complex clinical procedures and services.

“The complexity comes into play when you take into account the variety of patients that we treat. Every patient presents a unique opportunity to know more.

“As a dental hygienist, I take into account the entire person, not just the mouth. The overall person, personality and medical history have to be considered,” she declared.

Of her achievement, she said: “The most gratifying thing is: becoming a dental hygiene educator and caring for people with oral hygiene problems. Seeing initially traumatised patients happy, with smiles on their faces …”

Asked what she would have delved into if not dental hygiene, she replied promptly:

“Psychotherapy and Counseling”

“I have a passion for helping people – so that would have been my natural next step.”

The United Kingdom-based Oral Hygienist was quite tactical in her response when asked of her assessment of oral hygiene in Nigeria and Britain. She believes that a critical thinker would naturally bear in mind that she is comparing a highly developed country with Nigeria – which  is currently on the way up.

She maintained: “What has helped UK is that her government invest so much in its National Health Service (NHS) and make dental care treatment affordable for ordinary citizens. This NHS is also complemented with private dental health plans, which allow patients to create their own needs and pay for them as they see fit. These plans are affordable to salary earners and have prompted a positive attitude towards oral hygiene.

“In Nigeria, clinic attendance is poor and where available – very expensive – except if you visit state or Federal hospitals. Therefore, perception of dental treatment as well as oral health can be improved.”

Of her mission, she declared:  “ I have been privileged to educate patients about the importance of oral health in London and am back in Nigeria to do the same since I love what am doing.

Dental decay is the most common non-communicable disease in the world. Oral ill-health in Nigeria is as a passive contributor to poor health and poverty.”

Citing a 2010 report on health awareness that says between 52% and 80% of respondents had never been to a dentist; about 75% of the citizens of Nigeria need plaque control, scaling and polishing; dental diseases affects over 80% of the population and 13% of this are so severe that they results in total tooth loss; Ajayi-Akinsulire said she is on a mission to reinforce a passion for quality dental care and positive patient communication

She explained: “If the nation will boost the level at which her citizens practice good oral hygiene, many things must be done. First, it is better to prevent than to cure, therefore we need to raise the awareness of oral hygiene through all mediums.

“Nigeria needs to develop simple and practicable literature or programmes about oral health care; facilitate oral health care training workshops; work collaboratively with dental professionals and organizations to have a joined-up public policy in raising the standard.”

On the whole, she thanked God and her husband for her achievements: Although there have been  challenges,  I thank God for the kind of husband am married to. He is always there for me, guiding, planning and helping with all he got. I don’t think there is any other man like my own. As am here in Nigeria, he calls me on hourly basis to know my progress and my challenges and gives advice. He prays with me whenever am facing challenges. If all men would be that supportive to their wives, women would soon start taking better positions in world not just in my country.”

Ajayi-Akinsulire’s advice to women planning to take a job in oral hygiene was however detailed.

She urged prospective oral hygienists to join related professional associations and continue with lifelong learning.

“They should strive to be abreast of new issues, get involved with local dental hygiene community events, activities and meetings,” she said.

Ajayi-Akinsulire still has many professional aspirations : “Things I would most like to accomplish as a dental hygienist in the future are: develop more public awareness and respect for the dental hygiene profession and awareness of the many preventive services that we can provide to patients.”

Aside work, she enjoys reading, shopping and travelling.



Source: The Guardian

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