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Leading Public Service Dentist calls for introduction of oral health programme for pre-school children

(27 Feb 2017)

New study shows cost of extractions for under fives under general anaesthetic could be 8 times more expensive than preventive programmes

Over 10,000 children having teeth extracted under GA per annum

A leading public service dentist has called for the urgent introduction of a properly funded oral health programme for pre-school children and the restoration of regular school screenings for primary school children nationwide.

The call follows the publication of a new study which shows that a considerable number of children under five require extractions under general anaesthetic and that some children are having as many as nine teeth extracted.

The study found that the cost of treatment - €819 per patient - could be as much as eight times the cost of a preventive/oral health promotion programme for the same group.

The study of 347 preschool children in Cork was published in the latest edition of Journal of the Irish Dental Association.

Dr Michaela Dalton, President of the HSE Dental Surgeons group, said the findings showed that prevention is not just a much better option for patients; it is also much more cost effective.

“The first and most important point to make is that too many children in Ireland are having teeth extracted under general anaesthetic. We believe the number is well over 10,000 every year.  This study shows that the problem starts at a very young age for many children and that economically-disadvantaged children are at a greater risk of requiring treatment. The study also found that children, who underwent extractions under GA at an early age, demonstrated poor oral health into adolescence.”

The Irish Dental Association is calling on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to introduce preventive programmes targeting preschool-aged children to tackle the high levels of dental caries within this age group and to provide a comprehensive preventive dental health programme for every child under 12 as promised in the Programme for Government.

“Having teeth extracted under GA is a very traumatic event for a young person. In the vast majority of cases it is preventable.  The HSE often says it cannot introduce programmes due to lack of funds, but this study shows clearly that prevention is far more cost effective than treatment.”

“While the problem begins in pre-school, it doesn’t end there. In many parts of the country school screenings which should happen in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes are just not happening due to chronic staff shortages in the Public Dental Service.  In 2015, 16,000 who were due to be screened did not receive an examination. Unless the staff shortages are addressed as a matter of urgency our young people and other vulnerable groups will continue to suffer the consequences of this neglect” Dr Dalton concluded.