First tooth, first visit

A leading dental expert has called for the Government to introduce a “use it or lose it” voucher scheme to cover the cost of every child’s first dental visit.

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) estimates that the scheme will cost €2-3 million but that the savings made ensuring a child has zero cavities in later childhood will outweigh the initial cost.

The IDA believe that more than ı0,000 Irish children are having teeth extracted under general anaesthetic annually, which they have described as a disgrace.

Dr Eleanor McGovern, a consultant paediatric dental surgeon at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, claims that 50 per cent of children in Ireland have tooth decay by the time they are five years old. Speaking at the IDA’s annual conference, she said: “Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease  and is associated with a reduction in quality of life of the child. It can also interfere with the child’s sleep, nutrition, behaviour, growth and development.”

She continued by saying children will require more days off school to go to numerous dental visits and doctors’ appointments when they have dental decay. Dr Govern claims Ireland needs a similar publicly funded programme to Scotland’s Childsmile programme, which provides children with free dental care until they are ı7 years old.

She said: “It is time for our politicians, the HSE and the Chief Dental Officer to provide leadership. By using revenue from the impending sugar tax we could finance our own Childsmile programme and save our children a great deal of pain and heartache.

“The anti-smoking campaign has been highly effective in Ireland. We need to apply the same approach on a consistent basis to sugar consumption. Water and milk are the only safe drinks for children’s teeth.”

When Scottish three-year-olds were examined, it was found that children in deprived areas had higher rates of dental decay, but this has been reduced since the Childsmile programme was set up.

Published: 26 June, 2017 at 15:54