Speech at the 68th Induction Program & Scientific Seminar, Philippine Dental Association (PDA) – Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter

To present Chapter President Dr. Florence Abundo-Manuel, President-elect Dr. Ellis James Ranada, Dr. Fely Calamayan, the officers and members of the Philippine Dental Association-Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter, the recent inductees to the dental profession, their parents, families and friends here in attendance, other guests, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant morning to you all!

Naimbag a bigat yo amin apo!

Maragsakanak la unay nga makisango kadakayo amin tatta nga bigat!

At this early juncture, let me first congratulate the PDA Ilocos Norte Chapter for its 68th induction ceremonies, and also to the inductees for today, the newly elected officers who will continue the leadership of your PDA-Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter.

On behalf of the Congress of the Philippines, which was responsible for enacting Republic Act No. 9484, or the “Philippine Dental Act of 2007”, when I was a representative of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte, let me take this opportunity to welcome not only the officers and their families but all of our new young dentists for having hurdled the stringent requirements and exacting standards set by the law! You have made your parents very, very proud!

Let us not also forget to congratulate the parents of the new entrants to the dental profession for their equally commendable perseverance and arduous investments in sending their children to dental school! Nothing assuages and makes the parents more proud than the thought that their once-dependent and frail children are now on the road to independence, capable of self-support, self-sufficiency and independent living—not to mention their entry into the service of their fellowmen. Mabuhay po kayo! Handa na silang sumabak sa tunay na mundo at sa realidad ng ating lipunan.

We also congratulate the Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter for its dynamic and proactive efforts in continually shepherding and molding, likewise solidifying the integration, of Filipino dentists in this northern part of our country! Sana tunay na maging “Solid North” din ang mga dentistang Pinoy dito sa Ilocos Norte!

Agbiag kayo amin nga kailiyan ti pamilyang Marcos ditoy Ilocos Norte!

Believe it or not, but somehow, after having been invited a number of times to speak before dentists—the most recent ones being last year at the 104th Annual Convention of the PDA and at the induction ceremonies of the Philippine Society of Periodontology (PSP)—I have grown more comfortable with the dental profession. As my dentist, Dr. Ranny Reyes, would probably remember, I was never comfortable being on the dental chair. But now, having to address once again the members of the dental profession—from my own hometown, no less!—I can safely say that I have already successfully managed to overcome my odontophobia or dentophobia!

Awanen ti buteng ko kadagiti Dentista!

Seriously, in all my research and speech preparations for those past events, I have been able to educate myself not only about dental science or dentistry in general, but also about the status of the dental profession here in the Philippines!

Nonetheless, please bear with me still, as my little self-education surely is not worthy of an academic degree, much less a license to practice from the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC)! In short, let me just say that I cannot possibly match the rigorous academic and practical training that you all have undergone to reach your present status as members in good standing of the Philippine dental profession! Considering that you are also holding your scientific seminar today, I am certain that you will go notches higher to further your expertise and skill in the field of dentistry.

My impassioned congratulations to the chapter officers and warm welcome to our new dentists stem from my realization that our dentists have a major role to play in our society, especially in the delivery of basic health services to our community and to our countrymen!

To lay my premise, may I paint a realistic, somewhat bleak picture of the state of our oral health care here in the Philippines today:

In the 2011 National Monitoring and Evaluation Dental Survey conducted by the DOH-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, in partnership with the UP-National Institute of Health, it was revealed that 87.4% of Filipinos suffer from dental caries, i.e., tooth decay and tooth cavity), while 48.3% have periodontal or gum disease.

You all know what this means! Ibig sabihin, halos siyam (9) sa bawat sampu (10) sa atin dito sa silid na ito ay may sira sa ngipin. At lima (5) din sa bawat sampu (10) ay mayroon ding problema sa gilagid! Let us not start looking at each other now.

Agpayso nga adu ti problema tayo nga Pilipino nu dental care ti pagsasaritaan tayo!

Idagdag din natin ang ibinunyag ng Metro Dental clinic noong 2013 na Top 7 oral health problems ng mga Pilipino:

7) Oral cancer
6) Unattractive smile
5) Tooth sensitivity o pangingilo
4) Mouth sores o singaw
3) Gum disease
2) Tooth decay

At ang number 1 naman ay…

1) Bad breath!

O, huwag kayong tumingin sa akin! Dun sa mga katabi ninyo na lang kayo magsitinginan!
I am now suddenly reminded of the joke of the late King of Comedy Dolphy, whose 2nd death anniversary we have just commemorated last July 10. And it goes like this:

Tinanong niya na kung ang remedyo sa tonsillitis ay tonsillectomy at sa appendicitis ay appendectomy, ano naman daw ang gamot sa bad breath? Ang sabi niya, eh ‘di… “DON’T TALK TO ME!!!”

We all may laugh at jokes similar to this. But objectively and professionally speaking, this is really no laughing matter. In fact, no less than the DOH has condensed these statistics into a rather portentous or apocalyptic reality for the Philippines. Let me directly quote from DOH (I am not making these up):

“The individual so affected with such handicap also has disturbed speech, becomes withdrawn and avoids socializing with people and so lessen his opportunities for advancement. More critical however is the effect of poor or defective teeth to overall nutrition to maintain good general health, that begins with the first bite and chewing the food efficiently.

“The combined ill effects of these two major diseases (except oral cancer) weaken bodily defense and serve as portal of entry to other more serious, potentially dangerous and opportunistic infections overlapping other diseases present. Such will incapacitate a young victim as in crippling heart conditions arising from oral infection that may end in death.”

O, di ba, nakakatakot? Very doomsday-scenario indeed!

This is precisely why I am invigorated by the news that another batch of two hundred-plus new dentists have reinforced the ranks of the Philippine dental profession! And what elates me more is that a fraction of these new dentists hail from our beloved province of Ilocos Norte! All in all, these new dentists are welcome additions to our professional workforce in our battle against these dreaded oral diseases and dental maladies here in our country.

The sad thing though is that we may be facing an uphill battle. For despite the manpower reinforcements with the entrance of new dentists every year, we are still outnumbered.

I say this because according to the PRC, there are approximately 21,000 active dental practitioners in the Philippines now. That is around a 1:4,285 ratio or one dentist for every 4,285 persons. It means that we have a shortage of dentists in our country, for according to the PRC, the ideal proportion should be 1 dentist for every 3,000 persons!

Also, according to the PRC, based on the data it had gathered, there also seems to be an unequal or maldistribution of dentists in the Philippines, wherein most practitioners are concentrated in urban areas. Which means then that people in far-flung areas do not have access to dentists; and yet they are the ones who are in dire need of dental care!

Taken together, these reported manpower constraints result in a huge setback in our fight against oral health problems.

So, we have to produce not only more Filipino dentists, but even improve their quality, to beef up our manpower requirements. To do this, we may have to launch a massive information campaign to our fellow citizens about the dismal state of our oral health and the recognized need for new dentists to constantly reinforce our manpower base. The PDA, among other civic and relevant professional groups, should be at the forefront of this campaign.

It goes without saying that the government should also do its part, not only with regard to the information drive, but also with regard to the over-all machinery or the structural component of the solution. This means that the government should provide for an enabling environment for our dental professionals to manifest and render their much-needed public service to the community, especially to those living in the countryside.

This brings to fore the related aspects of employment availability and job generation, and the creation of a conducive economic environment for self-employment among our dentists in the country!

For one, the government may rethink its national health service policy by creating a dedicated agency under the DOH to primarily address dental health, and not merely integrate dental health services in the entire national machinery for medical services. To do this, it is highly recommended that the government restore in a more invigorated form the Bureau of Dental Health Services in the DOH.

Because, in my humble opinion, based on the current strategy, our government has sadly made it possible for dental health services to be drowned in the vast ocean of general health services. Also, through its policy directions, government has practically privatized the area of dental health services, leaving to the private practitioners the bulk of the work of addressing the country’s oral health care. This is too lopsided!

At this point, I humbly submit that the government should take a substantial part in this branch of health service and must also provide a just share in the national budget in the area of public dental health services. I believe that government must institute regular programs and projects and create government employment opportunities in dental services in order to specifically address the country’s oral health woes.

Secondly, the government should also help create a conducive environment for our self-employed dental practitioners to firmly establish themselves and grow in strength and numbers as productive citizens and professionals. This mandates the government to ensure the availability and affordability of the needed dental equipment and paraphernalia in the market. Most importantly, the government must restrain itself from implementing a crippling taxation scheme upon our self-employed professionals, including our dentists. The taxation system should be healthy and sensible, in order not to dissuade and discourage our dentists from trying their luck in legitimate private practice.

Lastly, the government should help in providing and harnessing the “market”, so to speak, for our dentists.

To add to our number-crunching, according to Dr. Vic Miranda, Dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Dentistry, 70% of Filipinos do not visit their dentists regularly. Dr. Miranda adds that, of the 30% who patronize the dental professionals, 10% go to private dental clinics, while 20% visit government clinics.
Again, through a massive national information campaign, all of us can help convince the 90% of our countrymen who have tooth problems, and the 50% who have gum problems, to regularly pay a visit to their local dentists for immediate dental intervention. Not only that, we also have to convince these 70% of us Filipinos to make it a regular habit of visiting their dentists.

The dental chair, the drill, probe and scaler, the pasta, and other dreaded dental tools and implements are eagerly and patiently waiting for them! Joke lang po!

By bonding and working together, the dental professionals can be a formidable force to reckon with and can ably lobby for government reforms in the area of dental health services. So I exhort the PDA-Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter not only to “stand for charity” and also be “one in unity” of purpose, true to the lyrics of your hymn. In unity, you can accomplish seemingly impossible and undoable tasks.

Remember that you, as a united group, were able to lobby in Congress for the needed reforms and upgrades provided for in the National Dental Act in 2007. I don’t see why you cannot continue to do so, and even with greater strength and vigor!

So, as you conduct your induction ceremonies today, I beseech the inductees to actively and consciously listen and affirm to the Oath, and commit to heart your Code of Ethics. I also exhort all the members to likewise relive and renew their Oath affirmations, for the faith, confidence and safety of the public, whom you have sworn to serve.

In furtherance of the Oath and your ideals, I also call on everyone here, through the able leadership of your incoming set of officers led by President-elect Dr. Ranada, to continue to provide services to our needy constituents for an all-inclusive development of our country. Remember that you dentists are all participants in the task of nation-building!

As a final word, the ASEAN Integration, as mandated by the ASEAN Mutual Recognition Agreement, is coming in by 2015. By that time, we will have to open the practice of all professions to foreign nationals. Thus, we will be tested against and compared to our ASEAN counterparts.

This is a big challenge to us all because we are already experiencing a difficult economic environment now. Then, by virtue of our international commitments, we shall also have to open our borders to accommodate new and foreign competition. Looking at it positively, it is also good in the sense that we will also gain the opportunity to showcase to the ASEAN international scene the Filipino brand of dental practice: a dental practice “na may puso at may pagmamalasakit”.

Let us all work together then to raise oral health awareness in the region and the entire country, and do our share in eradicating dental diseases. Let us also make it our passion and lifetime commitment to improve and hone our skills, made possible by religiously participating in your continuing education programs, like your scientific seminar today.

Hanggang dito na lamang po! Maraming salamat sa pagkumbida ninyo sa inyong lingkod! Dios to agngina kadakayo amin!

Mabuhay ang mga Pilipinong dentista!

Agbiag amin nga Ilokano dentista! Mabuhay ang mga bagong-pasang mga dentista na mga anak ng Ilocos Norte, at ang kanilang mga magulang at pamilya!

Agbiag ti PDA-Ilocos Norte Dental Chapter!

Maraming, maraming salamat po!

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin! Naimbag a aldaw yo amin nga kakailian ken kakabsat ditoy Ilocos Norte!

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