Where We Work :: Infant Oral Mutilation
What is Infant Oral Mutilation? Infant oral mutilation is the process of gouging out an infant’s healthy baby teeth. A primitive technique is usually employed involving un - sterile knives, bicycle spokes or other bizarre and inappropriate instruments. The result is severe pain and confusion, serious future mouth problems and in the worst case scenario end in the death of the child.
Why is it done? When young children with diarrhoea and fevers are taken to be treated by a local healer the soft white tooth buds are mistaken for the fever causing parasite worms, commonly found in diarrhoea. It is believed that the child is unwell because of these ‘mouth worms’ whereas in reality the cause of the illness is something quite different, often malaria, dehydration, or a stomach bug caused by contaminated water.
Where does it take place? It is a practice which has been observed in much of Africa – Burundi, Chad, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. It is a custom that passes between communities and tribes. More recently there have been many reports of children being presented in clinics in the UK, USA, France, Australia, Israel and Norway, raising the question of this practice potentially occurring in migrant populations. For more information on where IOM has been reported please view the IOM map.
How real is the problem? Very. It is true that some children do die as a direct result of the practice and that the after effects are hugely detrimental to the child in terms of serious future dental problems such as facial disfigurement, damage to gums and the permanent teeth.
For photos of Sudanese children with orthodontic problems following a history of IOM in infancy, click here.
In one region of Uganda, infant deaths due to septicaemia and other infections following Infant Oral Mutilation are reported to be second only to malaria as a cause of infant mortality.
What is Dentaid going to do about it? Dentaid has adopted combating IOM as one of its major priorities over the next few years. We have now embarked on a process intended to bring the practice of IOM out into the forefront of public awareness and end the needless pain and suffering that it causes. To this end Dentaid has created an IOM Action Group to focus on implementing a strategy to deal with the very real problem of IOM.
IOM Action Group - Who are we?
Download an IOM Enquiry Form to see how you can help.
Where We Work
- Key Partnerships
- Infant Oral Mutilation
- Current projects in need of funding
- Cameroon Schools Oral Health Programme
- Previous Dentaid Projects