WHO South-East Asia Journal of Public Health
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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 164-173

Opportunities in oral health policy for Timor-Leste

1 Centre for Rural Health, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania Australia; Guido Valadares National Hospital, Ministry of Health, Timor-Leste
2 School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
3 Rural Clinical School, University of Tasmania, Burnie, Tasmania, Australia
4 Centre for Rural Health, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Leonard A Crocombe
Centre for Rural Health, Private Bag 103, Hobart, Tasmania, 7000
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2224-3151.206254

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Timor-Leste faces an urgent set of challenges in oral health. The impact of oral diseases in terms of reduced quality of life and cost of treatment is considerable. This paper reviews progress on policy recommendations since the National Oral Health Survey in 2002, the first such national survey. Few proposals have been implemented to date, owing to (i) lack of local support for the recommendations, particularly on promotion of oral health; (ii) lack of financial and budgetary provisions for oral health; (iii) lack of focus on services, human resources and dental personnel; (iv) poor focus, design and implementation of policy and planning in oral health; and (v) lack of transport to facilitate health-care workers’ access to remote areas. Based on this assessment, the present paper presents a reconfigured set of policies and recommendations for oral health that take into consideration the reasons for low uptake of previous guidance. Key priorities are promotion of oral health, legislative interventions, education of the oral-health workforce, dental outreach programmes, targeted dental treatment, dental infrastructure programmes, and research and evaluation. Interventions include promotion of oral health for schoolchildren, salt fluoridation, fluoride toothpaste and banning sweet stalls and use of tobacco and betel nut in, or near, schools. Timor-Leste should strengthen the availability and quality of outreach programmes for oral health. Dental therapists and dental nurses who can supply preventive and atraumatic restorative dental care should continue to be trained, and the planned dentistry school should be established. Ongoing research and evaluation is needed to ensure that the approach being used in Timor-Leste is leading to improved outcomes in oral health.

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