Objectives: The health system of Kerala, India has won many accolades in having health indicators comparable to developed countries. But oral health has not received its due importance at the policy level. With the burden of oral diseases on the rise in the state, a critical introspection of the existing system is warranted. The objective of this review was to assess the oral health care system in Kerala to provide policy solutions.
Methods: This study adopted a mixed methodological approach that gathered information from the primary and secondary sources, which included health facility surveys, key informant interviews, review of published literature, and websites of governmental and non-governmental bodies. The WHO framework of health system building blocks was adapted for the assessment.
Results: A review of epidemiological studies conducted in Kerala suggests that the prevalence of oral diseases is high with the prevalence of dental caries at the age of 12 years ranging from 37-69%. The state has a dentist population ratio of 1:2200 which is well within the prescribed ratio by WHO (1:7500). Only 2% of dentists in Kerala work with government sector catering to 0.6 million of the approximately 33.4 million population. This point to the absence of oral care in first contact levels like primary health centers. Service delivery is chiefly through the private sector and payment for dental care is predominantly through out-of-pocket expenditure.
Conclusion: Despite having the best health indicators, the oral health system of Kerala is deficient in many aspects. Reorientation of oral health services is required to combat the burden of diseases.
V. Ramanarayanan, Chandrashekar Janakiram, Joseph, J., and Krishnakumar, K., “Oral health care system analysis: A case study from India.”, J Family Med Prim Care, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 1950-1957, 2020.