Kota Kinabalu: Sabah continues to record the highest prevalence of caries among Malaysian children, said Health Deputy Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin.

She said although the oral health of Malaysians has improved remarkably over the last 30 years, the improvement has eluded Sabah.

According to her, survey data shows persistent high caries with minimal improvement.

“In 2005, nine out of 10 children aged five in Sabah experienced dental caries, with an average of eight of 20 baby teeth affected.

“Another survey in 2007 found seven out of 10 12-year-olds had dental caries on their newly-erupted permanent teeth with an average of three teeth affected.

“At all index age groups for children, Sabah continued to record the highest caries prevalence and experience among Malaysian children,” said Rosnah when opening the Borneo Dental Congress 2011 and Trade exhibition in a hotel, here, Saturday.

Rosnah said as a result, prevention has become the cornerstone of community oral health efforts and preventive actions for health improvement requires leadership and strategy as well as a heightened sense of community and social responsibility.

She called on the private sector to forge wider partnership with relevant agencies to provide visibility and increased opportunities for oral health advocacy.

In 2010, Rosnah said, the Ministry of Health and Sabah Government came to an agreement to reinstate water fluoridation in the State as a public health measure for caries prevention.

“Henceforth, in the two-year rolling plan (2011-2012) under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the Government has allocated RM2.5 million for the implementation of the water fluoridation programme in Sabah at the optimal level of 0.5 parts per million,” she said.

Rosnah added that the allocation has been approved and will be implemented at any time throughout the State for two years.

“It is our great hope to see future generations of Sabahans benefit from this programme, which is counted by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the 10 greatest public health measures of the 20th century,” she said, adding in the present century, the World Health Organisation continues to recommend community water fluoridation.

In doing so, Rosnah said, vigilance monitoring under the National Standard of Drinking Water Quality will ensure the recommended level at 0.4-0.6ppm is complied with.

Rosnah further said that in view of the fact that only about 76 per cent of Sabahans receive piped water supply, other measures such as the use of fluoridated toothpaste and professionally-applied topical fluorides are also needed to control and prevent the disease.

“Therefore, I call on all professionals in health and all members of community to work together to advocate the importance of prevention and rational and appropriate use of fluorides,” she said.

Also present at the event were Deputy Director of Health Services (Dental – Sabah) Dr Dzulkifli Salleh, Deputy Director of Health Services (Dental – Sarawak) Dr Ling Kwok Sung, Deputy Director of State Health Service (Medical) Dr Tan Enoch, President of Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) Dato’ Dr How Kim Chuan, Chairman of MDA Eastern Zone Dr John Ting, organising chairman Dr Roland Chia and organising secretary Dr Abdul Rashid Hassan.