Press Release
March 2, 2015

"SONA: State of the Ngipin Address"
With 9 in 10 suffering from tooth problems, bigger oral health care budget needed

With 9 in 10 Filipinos suffering tooth decay and only 1 in 10 of them can afford to see a dentist once a year, budget for oral health care should be restored as a line item in the national budget, Senator Ralph Recto said.

Despite national health allocations reaching almost P90 billion this year, the specified budget for oral health "is no bigger than a small caries in a tooth," he said.

Recto also called for the hiring of more public dentists, especially in public schools, which only have 300 dentists serving a combined student-teacher population of 21.5 million.

There's only 1 dentist for every 70,000 DepEd students and teachers, Recto lamented.

"Nationally, at 1,718, there are 18 public dentists per 1 million Filipinos. In contrast, there are 3,556 elected public officials per million," the Senate President Pro-Tempore said.

"If every 1,000 days we hire thorough costly elections 12 senators, 292 congressmen, 81 governors, 143 city mayors, 1,491 town, 11,932 town councilors so why can't we hire more dentists?" Recto said.

Compounding the lack of manpower is the scant resources dedicated to oral health care, the senator pointed out.

"The National Center for Disease Prevention Control was allocated P23.6 million to push the Oral Fit Child program in 2013. Last year, it was given P35 million to buy for dental sealants and filling materials for pre-school kids," he said.

He estimated that at best DepEd spent a measly P9 million for dental supplies out of its P37.5 million expenses for supplies in 2013.

This was equivalent to an annual budget of less than two pesos per student a year, Recto said.

"P9 million is half the amount the DBM paid its janitors in 2013. Even the DND spent twice more for the food and drugs of the dogs in its K-9 units in the same year," Recto said.

Recto said government can spend for less important things it can afford a higher dental budget.

"Kung meron tayong 20 milyong istudyante sa DepEd at ang kalahati ay bibigyan mo ng tig-kinse pesos na sepliyo, ang P150 mikyon ay katumbas lamang ng communication expenses ng Department of Agriculture sa isang taon," Recto said.

"Or kung bibili ka ng P100 million worth of toothpaste, katumbas lang yan ng ginasta ng DAR sa gasolina noong 2013," he said.

Cutting the national government's travel budget this year by just 5 percent could free P700 million for the purchase of dental equipment, Recto said.

He said oral health care will not get the attention it rightfully deserves for as long as oral health spending will remain as a hidden account in the national budget.

"It is time to surface dental heath in the pages of the general appropriations bill," Recto said, even as he called for the inclusion of more dental procedures as a covered item in the national health insurance system.

"If that will not done millions will continue to suffer from dental problems and billions of pesos will be lost to absences due to decayed tooth," he said.

Citing a government survey, Recto said 1 in 7 absent from work or school at least once a month and 1 in 10 fail to go to school or work at least twice a year due to aching tooth or gums.

Two disturbing findings of the survey are that 9 in 10 urban children have decayed tooth, and women have more missing teeth than men.

"7 in 10 women have missing teeth, while it is 5 in 10 for men. Even the number of missing teeth, women trump men: An average 8 missing teeth for females, while 4 for males."

He said officials should address the bleak SONA or State of the Ngipin Address delivered by heads of dentists associations and public dentists during conferences.

"Without dentists, politicians will have no political careers. A candidate's first stop after he had thrown his hat into the ring is the dental clinic - for that toothpaste commercial smile. And if he wins, his first stop after his inaugural is again the dentist's chair because if he has to lie through his teeth, then it better be through pearly whites," Recto said.

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