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Department of Health's new oral health strategy is doomed to failure without new relationship

(11 Oct 2018)

Dental decay the most common reason for children to have a general anaesthetic

Irish Dental Association describes Department of Health's lack of engagement on new National Oral Health Policy as "inexplicable, unwise and objectionable"

IDA warns that new strategy is doomed to failure without new relationship

Thursday 11th October 2018. A leading dentist has pointed out that dental decay is the most common human disease and the most common reason for five to nine-year olds to have a general anaesthetic in Ireland.

Dr Christine Myers, the incoming President of the HSE Dental Group said in Ireland oral health was still not seen as being an integral part of general health.

Dr Myers, a Principal Dentist Surgeon who works for the HSE in North Dublin, said oral care should start by a child's first birthday, with regular recall within the service until 16 years of age.

Addressing the Irish Dental Association's annual seminar for HSE dentists in Portlaoise, Dr Myers said preventative care should be at the heart of the service.

"At the moment due to staff shortages that simply isn't the case. By right primary school children should be screened by a Public Health Dentist three times but the reality is that school screenings are observed more in the breach than the observance. This is having a devastating effect on thousands of children around the country"

"The Public Dental Service should be based on risk assessment of patients and the service offered reflective of each person's needs. As risk can change the service needs to be reactive and dynamic to allow for this."

Addressing over 150 delegates at the conference the Chief Executive of the IDA, Fintan Hourihan warned that the Department of Health's new National Oral Health Policy - which is due to be published shortly - was doomed to failure unless the Department developed a new relationship based on inclusivity and mutual respect with the country's dentists.

He said it beggared belief that the Department and the HSE - who have been working on the Policy for the last four years - had failed to consult with the IDA and other stakeholders. He described the decision as 'inexplicable, unwise and objectionable'.

"In contrast to the Department of Health and the HSE, whose only contributions have been to slash spending and delay long overdue legislative reforms and the publication of a new oral health policy, the Irish Dental Association and its members are proud of the role they have taken in promoting a number of significant initiatives, such as establishing the Dental Complaints Resolution Service, Mouth Cancer Awareness Day and raising awareness of what limited dental benefits remain available to members of the public."

"In addition, during the summer we established a task force to set out what we see as the priorities which should inform the new 'National Oral Health Policy'. We have now sent that document to the Minister for Health for his consideration as we believe the support of the profession will be vital to implementing that 'Policy'.

"In that document we point out that oral health at Government level is regarded as the poor relation of general health and is generally overlooked as a gateway to promoting general health.

"While all sections of the profession remain ready to play our part, unless a new relationship based on mutual respect is established between the Department and the country's dentists, the new Policy will be doomed to failure" he warned.

The IDA document, 'Towards a Vision for Oral Health in Ireland' is available on request.