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Oral health care systems seek to prevent and treat problems related to the mouth as well as restore teeth and the tissues that support the teeth. Oral health is important because it is closely related to general health and affects quality of life, food consumption, and physical appearance (Uetani et al., 2006). Poor, rural areas of the world especially do not have the oral health care system to keep up with the worsening oral health statuses of their people due to a lack of resources and/or infrastructure (Kandelman et al., 2012). Such is the case of Vietnam, where according to the National Oral Health Survey of Vietnam from 2001 and data from the World Health Organization, “large parts of the population of Vietnam must have incomplete natural dentitions” due to a high number of extractions and the average number of dental caries (cavities) is higher than the global average (Bhide et al., 2008; Nguyen et al., 2010, p.1). Rural areas of Vietnam are vulnerable because dental decay is prevalent but access to dental professionals is limited. While the oral health of individuals goes untreated, pain increases and quality of life deteriorates. This paper sought to create a plan for improving the oral health care system in rural Vietnam by analyzing a range of previously performed studies. The studies offered different perspectives and suggestions, which were then evaluated and compared to inspire new oral health strategies. One article provided a historical overview of Vietnam’s health care system as it transitioned from a planned to market economy, and another discussed health care issues that rural areas of Vietnam currently have. Multiple studies investigated the oral health status of Vietnamese people and two others analyzed the effectiveness of national health programs in rural areas. Moreover, several studies gave a general overview on oral health care systems and how to improve them. Results of the investigation reveal that although there are not many resources in rural areas of Vietnam to have a robust and sophisticated oral health system, a combination of preventive, structural, and curative strategies can help improve oral health in rural Vietnam. For example, preventive strategies include promoting school education programs and fluoridation treatment. Structural strategies offer changes to how the oral health system is organized, such as creating regional and local plans or using general health care workers to perform oral health tasks. Curative strategies include trying to restore teeth to a functional state instead of extracting them and emphasizing the importance of anterior teeth. Most importantly, the plan should be cost-effective and suit local priorities. Once an improved model is developed in rural Vietnam, it can be used as a model to improve oral health in poor areas around the world.
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Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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