By Daniella DeSoto and Daniel HausmannNew York (CNN) A few years ago, a dentist at a Chinese dental hospital in Beijing was asked to fill a patient’s toothbrush, but he didn’t know how to handle it.
The patient, a woman in her 20s, told the dentist she was diabetic and had had a toothache for a month, the doctor explained.
The dentist immediately took the woman’s toothbrushes away from her and handed them back to her.
The patient immediately thanked him and left the room.
But in recent years, China has seen a number of high-profile cases of dental hygiene breaches.
The latest to raise eyebrows is that of an 81-year-old Chinese man who was told to use a toothbrush to clean the floor of his office.
His dental assistant was the only one to use it, and the incident has drawn attention to China’s lax handling of dental care.
According to the Chinese government, the country has a shortage of over 2.5 million teeth and the elderly population is projected to grow at an alarming rate of about 7% per decade.
There are a number reasons behind China’s aging population, but one of the biggest is the prevalence of high levels of dental infections, which are linked to poor hygiene practices.
A survey by the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that the prevalence rate of dental infection among the elderly in China had risen from 3.5% in 2008 to 6.7% in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study also found that almost one-third of Chinese adults with a dental condition, including gum disease and cavities, said they had experienced at least one tooth infection.
Chinese officials have been quick to take responsibility for the problem, and last year, they began to put teeth back into mouths of some elderly people who had been denied them due to poor dental hygiene.
The number of dental workers working in China has also fallen sharply over the past decade.
In 2016, the number of dentists working in the country was at 1,200, according the China Dental Association.
But that number fell to 1,170 in 2017, and in 2018, it was down to 713, according Chinese news agency Xinhua.
The China Doral Association’s latest report, released in July, noted that the rate of turnover of the country’s dental workforce has dropped from 20% in 2011 to 14% in 2017.
It said this was partly due to better training of the dental staff and more efficient management.