A survey conducted by FDI has shed light on the severe inequalities refugees frequently suffer when it comes to access to oral care. (Photograph: mustafa olgun/Shutterstock)
FDI survey highlights low level of oral care access for refugees
SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.: According to recent estimates from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are more than 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide—26 million of whom are refugees. A recent survey by FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) has found that the level of availability of dental services to refugees across the globe is extremely low, limited by many economic, cultural and psychological barriers.
This past June, FDI surveyed its member national dental associations (NDAs) to measure the burden of oral disease among refugees in each member country and to determine whether oral health education and treatment are routinely offered to refugees. It received 102 responses from member NDAs, chief dental officers and affiliated organizations.
Of those who responded, 44% were aware of emergency dental services being available to refugees. However, only 4% said that dental screening for refugees is offered upon arrival in their countries. Furthermore, less than half of the survey respondents were involved in advocacy actions to make oral care for refugees a health priority.
FDI Public Health Committee member Dr. Elham Kateeb of Palestine spearheaded the survey. When asked what she hoped to achieve through the Refugee Oral Health Promotion and Care Project, Kateeb said, “We hope to work with national dental associations, governments, civil society, the private sector and refugees themselves to find joint solutions to promote oral health.”
Many refugees have limited access to therapeutic dental care and preventive services. Barriers to dental care among refugees vary, though they can include treatment costs, lack of dental insurance, limited availability of dentists, low oral health literacy, language barriers, and other cultural and psychological barriers.
FDI launched the Refugee Oral Health Promotion and Care Project in 2018 to gather data on various countries’ experiences of providing oral care to refugees and on possible solutions to the problems involved. The aim was also to gather related epidemiological data. The data from this recent survey will be synthesized to help develop clinical, policy and societal recommendations to allow for better oral health outcomes for refugee patients.