Japanese-owned international oral health care company Sunstar is providing its Bousai oral care expertise, originally developed during natural disasters, as the Russia-Ukraine war deepens. It has already donated over 55,000 oral care products to the Polish Red Cross, along with pledging to 100 per cent match employees’ donations across Europe to aid organisations. In the coming weeks, a further 25,000 toothbrushes and toothpaste will be delivered too - totalling over 80,000 products as an initial response - including nearly 30,000 children’s toothbrushes.
Since establishing its original Bousai campaign of oral care in 2011 after the Tohoku earthquake in Japan, Sunstar has worked across numerous humanitarian crises from earthquakes and tsunamis to now supporting humanitarian efforts by those affected by the Russian-Ukraine war. Translating as ‘disaster readiness or management to reduce the damage caused’ - Sunstar’s ‘Bousai’ message for both natural or man-made disasters is to remember oral care as an essential part of general health - as those fleeing disaster or living in temporary refugee centres, and especially the elderly, have been proven to be prone to pneumonia and poor health when oral hygiene is neglected over time.
This is because oral care affects not just the health of the mouth, but also body health, with the mouth being the entrance to the lungs too. Water shortages and a lack of available oral care products make it difficult to keep up with good oral care during evacuation.
On top of this, accumulated tiredness increases the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth which can adversely affect the rest of the body. Following the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake in Japan, over 200 people alone died of pneumonia caused indirectly by the quake.
Sunstar’s Bousai campaign was originally developed with expertise from dentist Ryohei Adachi, chief of dental surgery, Tokiwa Hospital, former professor of Department of Dental Health, faculty of Junior College, Kobe Tokiwa University. Whilst a toothbrush or mouthwash is always best to maintain oral health, if this isn’t available during crises it advises the following preventative steps:
- Gargle thoroughly after eating with about two tablespoons of water or tea
- Cleaning teeth by wiping them with a cloth, tissue or wet wipe wrapped around a finger also helps
- Stimulating saliva production is also important to help wash bacteria away in the mouth – this can be done by massaging or warming the base of the jaw below the ear or chewing gum if available.
Ryohei comments, “In Japan, with its frequent earthquakes and typhoons, we have the expertise to maintain health in disasters. We recognized the problem that many people die of pneumonia due to poor oral hygiene during prolonged evacuation. Therefore, we believe that oral care in disasters is life-saving care, and we are providing information on how to take care of mouth health during emergencies.”
Julia Linz, senior director of European human resources at Sunstar, adds, “Like millions of others worldwide, we want to support humanitarian help in Ukraine and also offer our oral hygiene knowledge to help prevent further indirect casualties for those living in refugee centers or in war-torn situations where water has become scarce.”
For further information on Sunstar’s existing Bousai work visit: https://jp.sunstar.com/bousai/en
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