Action groups are ‘a significant step forward’, says BDA

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health unveils focus on oral health for children and the elderly

THE British Dental Association has welcomed an announcement by the Department of Health to establish two groups focusing on the oral health of children and the elderly in Northern Ireland.

The BDA said, however, that “any action will need to be accompanied by adequate investment and a commitment to address the needs of the dental workforce if it is to be successful.” Simon Reid, the Chief Dental Officer, made the announcement at the Oral Health Matters summit held at Stormont last month, organised by the BDA as a rallying call for a new vision for oral health in Northern Ireland.

The event was attended by more than 80 key stakeholders, including health spokespersons of the main political parties, the Older Person’s Commissioner, policymakers, advocates, leading public health organisations, and charities.

“These new focus groups give dentists an opportunity to work collaboratively with Department of Health and HSCB colleagues to generate ideas to deliver much needed advances in the population’s oral health,”
said Caroline Lappin, chair of the BDA NI Council.

Lappin added: “Whatever options are generated, additional investment to bolster oral health in Northern Ireland will be necessary. Going forward, improving oral health must be viewed as integral to embedding the prevention agenda, and delivering wider public health benefits to the population.”

Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance Party’s health spokesperson and co-sponsor of the event, commented: “Despite some improvements, Northern Ireland has the worst oral health in the UK, and this has a detrimental impact on general levels of health and wellbeing.

“Particularly, only 19% of under-15s have ‘good oral health’ and screening in care homes is proving difficult, showing the challenges which exist across all age groups.

“This means there are many actions which need to be taken urgently to address issues ranging from the sugar epidemic to addressing gaps in dental provision. We also need to ensure this is not treated as some kind of optional extra – gum disease alone can be linked to diabetes, heart
disease, dementia and arthritis.

“We need to see the Department of Health take a lead on this, engaging with healthcare professionals to ensure that there is adequate investment to fill the gaps and recognise the need for preventative action, entirely in line with the general Bengoa proposals. I commend the BDA NI on making these issues so prominent and on bringing so many people from so many sectors together to address them. There are significant challenges ahead, but we must work to meet them immediately.”

Read the summit report, click here.

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Published: 5 November, 2019 at 07:32