Figures are up to five times higher than UK
IDA says figures are an indictment of slash and burn oral health policy
Waiting times for young children with chronic dental infections are now up to 12 months
Shocking new figures indicate that up to 10,000 children under the age of 15 are being hospitalised for dental extractions under general anaesthetic every year in Ireland.
The Irish Dental Association has described the revelations as a national disgrace and an indictment of the slash and burn policy of the previous and current government to oral health policy.
The IDA, which has compiled the figures, says the rate of hospitalisations here could be up to five times higher than in the UK.
The President of the IDA Anne Twomey said thousands of young children with chronic dental infection, many of whom require multiple extractions are waiting up to twelve months for treatment.
Dr Twomey, who is opening the IDA’s annual seminar for dentists working in the HSE, in Carlow, this morning (Thurs 15th Oct), said the figures were off the scale.
“Why are thousands of our young people undergoing the trauma of hospitalisation for multiple dental extractions? Ninety five per cent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier. The reason they weren’t is because of Government cuts to family dental supports since 2010, the constant undermining of what had been a highly effective schools screening service and the fact that too many of our young people have a poor diet containing too much sugar” she said.
Five years ago when these cuts were introduced the IDA said they would cause unnecessary pain and suffering. It also said the true cost of the cutbacks would be a multiple of the very modest savings made on these once cost efficient and effective schemes.
Dr Twomey said the second question which needed to be addressed was why are young people with serious infections being forced to wait between 6 and 12 months for treatment. She urged the HSE to act before a tragedy occurred.
“The closure of the walk-in clinic in St James’s Hospital in Dublin means waiting lists for general anaesthetic services in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare are 12 months. Waiting periods around the country are typically six to nine months. We know there are currently over 3,000 children awaiting general anaesthetic services and some of these have been waiting up to a year. The issue is compounded by the fact that dental cases are not included on hospital priority lists, and this results in theatre slots for dental cases being cancelled on a regular basis in favour of other paediatric cases.”
“So for example if a child is waiting longer than six months to have an ear, nose or throat operation the hospital is penalised, but this doesn’t happen for dental patients. We are hearing stories of children having to be admitted for IV antibiotics for oral infection. Our concern is that general anaesthetic services for dentistry will not become a priority until a child has a serious outcome from dental infection. If a terrible situation like that is to be avoided the HSE needs to put dental cases on priority lists and put the appropriate number of staff in place. I have no doubt that several motions calling for such action will be passed overwhelmingly at this annual seminar” Dr Twomey concluded.