A line of children forms outside the classrooms at GS Mbyo, Bugesera district from the Eastern Province.
It is an assembly, time to check oral hygiene and to deliver other important educational messages. One by one, each student approaches their teacher and stands still while opening their mouth wide.
Those who have brushed their teeth are applauded by their colleagues. However, a big number still have food stuck in their teeth, with yellowish substances on their teeth−they have not been brushing for a couple days.
With a population of 1892 students, 50% leave their homes without brushing their teeth every day, according to Alex Nzeyimana, Headteacher of GS Mbyo.
“We conduct hygiene checks every morning at assembly, especially oral hygiene. Unfortunately, half our students don’t brush their teeth before coming to school,” Nzeyimana said.
“These days, students eat at school and we expect them to brush their teeth. But they don’t pack toothbrushes because they explain that parents don’t buy them.”
MCR steps up efforts
The want of oral hygiene in schools has triggered stepping up efforts by the Ministry of Health and non-governmental organizations including Miracle Corners Rwanda to conduct sensitization campaigns about consequences of failing to brush teeth regularly.
Miracle Corners Rwanda, or MCR is a non-profit making organization founded by Miracle Corners of the World (MCW), another non-profit organization that aims at supporting communities to improve health, achieve education and increase economic security.
This week, MCR led the oral hygiene campaigns at GS Mbyo with the aim of teaching the pupils to brush teeth at least twice a day, floss daily between the teeth to remove dental plaque and visiting dentist at least once a year.
The campaigns were also marked with free health checkups for students, gifting them with toothbrushes and toothpastes.
“It’s a concern that must be addressed by everyone,” Adrien Bizimana, Program Manager at MCR said during the campaigns on October 19.
Every year on March 20th, World Oral Health Day is celebrated to encourage people to keep a mouth with healthy gums, strong teeth, neutral breath, and a clean tongue.
This year, the government through Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) and SOS Children’s Village Rwanda marked the World Oral Health Day on March 25, with the supply of tooth brush and tooth paste in schools and urging students to keep a healthy mouth.
The day was celebrated at Kagugu primary and Secondary school, Gasabo district, Kigali City.
Why Children’s Oral Health matters?
According to Evaliste Ufitihirwe, a finalist dentist student at University of Rwanda, College of Medicine, tooth decay is among the most common and can have a huge impact on a child’s life including losing teeth and permanently injuring the gums.
“It is not acceptable to overlook the pain, sleepless nights, or days off from school that might result from rotting, missing, or filled teeth because they can prevent kids from engaging in their favourite activities, such as playing games and hanging out with friends,” Ufitihirwe said.
He stated that continued high intake of sugars, inadequate exposure to fluoride and a lack of removal of plaque by toothbrushing can lead to caries, pain and sometimes tooth loss and infection to children.
“Children who don’t brush their teeth are more likely to develop cavities and tooth decay, which can cause more serious problems like discomfort, infections, and difficulties speaking and eating later in life. To prevent problems later in life, parents should assist their children in taking good care of their teeth,” Ufitihirwe said.
For Jean Paul Tuyisenge, a Primary six student, similar campaigns should be conducted in the community.
The first oral health survey published by RBC in 2018 revealed that nearly two-thirds, representing 64.9% of the 2097 survey participants, had dental caries experience and 54.3% had untreated cavities.