Home » Health in prison, in Rebibbia, Wisdom begins with the teeth

Health in prison, in Rebibbia, Wisdom begins with the teeth

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Health in prison, in Rebibbia, Wisdom begins with the teeth

oral hygiene kits and multilingual educational brochures at the New Rebibbia Complex, for people subjected to measures restricting personal freedom. It’s the initiative My Denty Kitpromoted by Faculty of Medicine and Dentistrydal Department of Dental and Maxillofacial Sciences and from Penitentiary university center dell’La Sapienza University of Romein collaboration with the National coordination of health workers in Italian prisons (Co.nosci).

Oral health: too often overlooked

My Denty Kit is a Third Mission project that intends to start a path to prevent oral health in prisons, a little-known and often overlooked aspect. According to Italian scientific research, in fact, pathologies of the gastrointestinal system and, in particular, of the dental system constitute one of the main causes of illness for people in prison. «Oral pathologies have a huge impact on the general population and also on the prison population. This is an important initiative, which aims to be an intervention to promote health prevention. We had a great reception,” he says Livia Ottolenghi, project Manager. The kits will be distributed to the most vulnerable people, to allow the minimum supply that allows for personal care.

Pathologies of the gastrointestinal system and, in particular, of the dental system constitute one of the main causes of illness for prisoners

In prison without a toothbrush and toothpaste

«I believe that, after mental health and gastrointestinal pathologies, oral ones are the majority of pathologies that afflict prisoners. We carried out a study on two prison centres, one at the women’s prison in Latina and one at the third prison in Rebibbia, with an investigation into the lifestyles and oral hygiene of the inmates. The vast majority of people smoke, there are many situations of health risk and access to treatment. Many inmates stated that they did not have oral hygiene aids, the classic toothbrush and toothpaste, the basic element for maintaining one’s health», says Ottolenghi. «Many of the people we interviewed said they had done so the first dental visit of their lives when they entered prison. As regards dentistry services, they are inside the prisons and, with the necessary procedures, there is the possibility of having access to treatment in hospitals. But in everyday life it seemed like a good idea to offer a path that could start from prevention and personal care. This project allowed us to create a information brochurewith all the explanatory photographs of the brushing phasesexplained in four languages. After the New Rebibbia Complex (which houses more than a thousand people), we hope to extend the experience to other prisons, both at a regional and national level.”

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Material delivery ceremony My Denty Kit

3.5 billion people with oral health problems

From a general point of view, overall oral diseases are among the most widespread pathologies in the world. «The most recent data from the World Health Organization – WHO establish that three and a half billion people are affected by oral diseases, one and a half billion people have untreated permanent tooth decay. I am half a billion children with tooth decay deciduous (permanent, ed), one billion people with severe paradental diseases. These are problems that, in conditions of social disability (regularly present in the prison population) they get worse» says the project manager.

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From the mouth social well-being and self-esteem

«In Rebibbia we are planning meetings with the detained people, in groups of 30-40 people, to provide more specific moments of information, on the basis of the experience of My Denty Kit», continues Ottolenghi. «This initiative is a small detail, but it can help people in prison improve their quality of life. It seems trivial, but these are small things that help on a daily basis. Let’s think about the function of mouth, how much it can affect people’s social well-being, to eat, talk, smile. AND one of the most important sources of sociality. Why the health, well-being and aesthetics of the mouth are important for self-esteem».

In the world three and a half billion people have oral health problems

The Third Mission of Wisdom

«It is very important that the penitentiary university center not only concentrates on the training part, which is obviously the most important part, but also on the Third Mission activities, which allow public engagement»», continues Ottolenghi. The project is part of a commitment that Sapienza has already undertaken with other activities, launched with the aim of making specialist knowledge and skills available to the community. Like the research on prison architecture in the design of the Module for Affection and Maternity (M.a.Ma), a small building built at the Rebibbia women’s prison. Designed as a meeting place between detained mothers and families, the module was designed by a team of young architects coordinated by the Faculty of Architecture with the supervision of Renzo Piano. «The presence of universities in places of detention has a profound social and cultural value», says the rector Antonella Polimeni. «Sapienza confirms its commitment to promoting activities dedicated to the well-being and health of people living in a prison situation as well as to promote access to high-level training courses, from an inclusive and Third Mission perspective».

Opening photo Vincenzo Livieri – LaPresse
Photo courtesy of the interviewee.

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