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How does dental care differ in Zimbabwe to the UK?

by Staff Writer
30 May 2019 at 19:17hrs | Views
In the UK, we often take dental care for granted. It isn't until you compare dental care in the UK to other countries, like Zimbabwe, that you realise just how different dental systems and standards of oral health are in other parts of the world.

Dental care in Zimbabwe compared to the UK
Dental care in Zimbabwe is very different to the NHS and private systems we're used to in the UK. The most obvious difference between these nations is access to treatment. While children in the UK grow up attending routine appointments at a local dental surgery, children in Zimbabwe rarely see dentists, and access, particularly in rural communities, is very poor. To see a dentist, parents often have to travel miles with children, and for many, dental care is unaffordable. According to the World Health Organisation, the density of dentists to 10,000 patients is 5.25 in the UK compared to just 0.162 in Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that there are around 220 dentists, 100 of whom work for Government-run organisations. In the UK, there are currently more than 35,000 dentists, the majority of whom work for the NHS. In the 12-month period running from 1st July 2017 to 1st July 2018, 22.1 million adults and 6.9 million children were seen by NHS dentists.

Seeing a dentist in Zimbabwe
When you need to see a dentist in the UK, you have a choice of booking an appointment in the days, weeks or months to come, or you can see an emergency dentist, usually on the same day. In Zimbabwe, the situation is very different, and it's much more difficult to get an appointment. While private patients may be able to afford to see a dentist quickly, if you're reliant on state services, it may be virtually impossible to get the treatment you need. The demand for services far outweighs the supply, and it's uncommon for patients to see a dentist on a regular basis.

As access to dental treatment is so poor in Zimbabwe, charity-run projects and initiatives often prove hugely popular. Charities like Dentaid, which is based in the UK, provide much-needed dental care at temporary clinics. These clinics are staffed by volunteers, and they offer free dental treatments, which are designed to relieve pain and reduce the risk of further oral health problems.

The cost of dental care


The cost of dental care varies in Zimbabwe, and this is largely due to the fact that private practitioners set their own fees. As the demand for care is so high, prices tend to be much higher in relation to income and salaries than they are in the UK. While government-funded clinics do exist, they only cater for a very small proportion of the population. In the UK, the vast majority of patients access NHS dental care, which is subsidised by the government and tax payers. The current charge for a routine check-up is just over £21. Private fees are higher, but clinics tend to offer a wider range of services, and there are usually no waiting times.

Oral health standards
Dental decay is the most common reason for childhood hospital admissions in the UK, but standards of oral health are significantly higher than in Zimbabwe. Around a quarter of 5-year-olds in the UK have signs of decay, compared to almost 60% of children living in urban areas of Zimbabwe and 40% of children from rural towns. Oral health education is poor in Zimbabwe, and diet is the most pressing concern for dentists. Children in both Zimbabwe and the UK are consuming more sugar than ever before, and this poses a major risk of decay and cavities.

Dental treatments
The range of dental treatments available in the UK is vast. With new innovations and advances in technology, modern-day dentists can provide a solution to almost any problem. If you search online for a treatment like veneers, tooth whitening or invisible braces, you'll probably find that there's a clinic or even several practices that offer the services you're looking for within a 10-mile radius of your home. The NHS provides a select range of services, and cosmetic services, some restorative treatments and adult orthodontics are only available from private dentists, such as Define Clinic. While a small number of private dental centres in the large cities in Zimbabwe may provide cutting-edge treatments, the vast majority of dental patients in the country struggle to access even the most basic services.

The UK and Zimbabwe are worlds apart when it comes to dental care. While it's relatively simple to get an appointment with a dentist in the UK and dental care doesn't cost the earth, there is a major shortage of dentists in Zimbabwe, routine dental care is not widely available, and there are very few government-funded practices. Standards of oral health are lower in Zimbabwe, and there's also a much wider range of treatments on offer in the UK.


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