Dental Association urges HSE to give dentists key role in tobacco control strategy
33% of Irish adults smoke - Ireland has failed to reach WHO target of reducing this to 20%
School screening system failing young people
The Irish Dental Association has called on the HSE to give dentists a key role in the country’s tobacco control strategy.
Dr Peter Gannon, Chair of the IDA’s General Practitioner Committee, told delegates at the Association’s annual conference in Galway that contrary to popular perception smoking remains the biggest killer of Irish people.
“Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer and in Ireland 1 in 3 adults smoke. That’s one million people. Sweden is the only country in Europe which has reached the World Health Organisation target of reducing the number of adults smoking to 1 in 5.
It is no coincidence that Swedish dentists played a key role in that country’s tobacco control strategy. Dentists are ideally placed to advise and encourage patients on the dangers of smoking and I would urge the HSE to work with the IDA so we can devise a fully effective tobacco control strategy” Dr Gannon said.
The IDA believes that while many people are aware of the dangers of lung cancer they are not familiar with the many other detrimental effects smoking can have on oral health. These include:
- Oral cancer – kills 2 people every week, smokers who drink at greatest risk
- Periodontal (Gum) disease is the most common cause of tooth loss, people who have it are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke
- Affects wound healing and can lead to Dry Socket, which can cause severe pain lasting up to 2 weeks after extraction
- Bad breath, cracking and staining of teeth
- Dental implants are less successful in people who smoke
“Dentists carry out cancer screening as part of their routine examinations and that is why it is very important that people avail of the free annual oral examination which most adults are entitled to. If oral cancer is detected early, the 5 year survival rate is around 85%. This drops with later detection. Dentists can also demonstrate to patients who smoke the effects it has on their oral health with the use of an intra oral camera and other aids” Dr Gannon said.
Dr Gannon also pointed out the detrimental effects cutbacks to Public Dental Service were having on children and special needs patients.
“For example school screenings should take place in 2nd, 4th and 6th classes. When this happens issues are spotted early and dentists can also advise young people on good oral health practice – such as the dangers of smoking. Now, due to the moratorium on hiring new staff, in many parts of the country* – including here in Galway - these screenings don’t take place until 6th class or until the children are in their teens.
But it’s too late at that stage. Our children have the highest consumption of sweets of any country in Europe and if they are not seen until 12 or 13 much of the damage has already been done. If children have dental issues the lack of screening affects their ability to get on orthodontic waiting lists not to mention their quality of life in their formative years with many experiencing lack of confidence, isolation or name calling.
Staff levels in the public dental system are down 20% over the past couple of years and young people, special needs patients and elderly people are suffering the consequences. That isn’t right and it can’t be allowed to continue” Dr Gannon concluded.
*Other counties with severely limited school screenings include Cork, Kerry, Laois, Offaly, Cavan, and Monaghan among others.
For Further Information
Contact Kieran Garry
01/6650455 or 087/2368366