Poor oral health is a large issue in The Gambia and a vast majority of children suffer from tooth decay. 67% of the 12 years olds and 73% of the 15 year olds have caries. The trend is showing an increase both in the sugar consumption and caries. A poor oral health status can have a profound impact on the quality of life and may not only cause pain and difficulties eating, but can also constitute a physical and social disability for the individual.
The dental health personnel in The Gambia is very limited. There are only around 23 dentists working in the whole country, which corresponds to a ratio of 0,1 dentists per 10 000 citizens and can be compared to 7 541 dentists or 8,3 per 10 000 citizens in Sweden (source). Public oral health service is primarily situated in the coastal area and is scarce in rural areas. Due to this, the knowledge about oral health and prevention is limited.
The estimated caries burden of disease using the DMFT (decayed, missing, filled teeth) index among 12 year olds was 2.3 in 1995, which is a higher than the average for the African countries (1,15 in 2004). (read more here) Most people do not use toothbrush, whereas chewing sticks are quite common. Toothpaste is not widely used and many of the toothpastes sold on the market do not contain fluoride.