FDI survey says refugees have limited access to regular dental check-ups and screenings

09 September 2019 Healthcare

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are more than 70 million forcibly displaced people worldwide—26 million of them are refugees.

In June 2019, FDI World Dental Federation surveyed its member National Dental Associations (NDAs) to measure the burden of oral disease among refugees in each member country. The survey also served to determine if oral health education and treatment are routinely offered to refugees and established a need to reinforce access to oral health care for refugees more broadly.

How did our member National Dental Associations respond?

FDI received 102 survey responses from member NDAs, Chief Dental Officers, and affiliated organizations. Of these, 44% are aware of emergency dental services available to refugees, but they indicated that access to routine dental care remains low: only 4% of those surveyed say that dental screening for refugees is offered upon arrival in the host countries. Furthermore, less than half of the survey respondents are involved in advocacy actions to make oral care for refugees a health priority.

Oral health conditions among refugees should be addressed in the same way as other health concerns. These survey results will inform FDI’s upcoming advocacy guide for member NDAs and their partners to improve and support the provision of oral health care for refugees.

The survey was spearheaded by FDI Public Health Committee Member Dr Elham Kateeb of Palestine. When asked what she hoped to achieve through the Refugee Oral Health Promotion and Care Project, she 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.”

About the Refugee Oral Health Promotion and Care Project

Many refugees have limited access to therapeutic dental care and preventive services. Barriers to dental care among refugees vary and may 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 different countries’ experiences, solutions, and epidemiological data on providing oral care to refugees. This data will then be synthesized to develop clinical, policy, and societal recommendations to ensure better oral health outcomes for refugee patients.

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