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Varadkar dismisses claims 10,000 Irish children have teeth extracted in hospital each year

The Irish Dental Association has described the figures as a “national disgrace”.
Oct 15th 2015, 1:20 PM 18,822 81

Updated 13.20

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Varadkar has dismissed claims made this morning by the Irish Dental Association (IDA) that as many as 10,000 children under the age of 15 are being hospitalised in Ireland each year to have teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.

Those figures are apparently up to five times higher than those seen in the UK.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland Varadkar said that “initial information” indicates that the IDA’s figures are incorrect.

“The IDA is not to be confused with an academic department or the dental council,” he said.

I’m informed by the HSE and the chief dental officer that the IDA is incorrect, that there are 3,600 such cases in Ireland, not 10,000 and that includes day cases and may even be an over-estimate.
Having said that I’m going to ask the chief dental officer to look into these claims, but initial information is that they’re incorrect.

Also the most recent information from the FAACT (Fluoride and Caring for Children’s Teeth) study indicates that child oral health in Ireland is actually improving. It’s good by international standards and the number of cavities is going down.

13/10/2015 Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD is Leo Varadkar Source: Mark Stedman/Rollingnews.ie

The HSE has said this afternoon that it “refutes the suggestion by the IDA that approximately 10,000 children currently receive general anaesthetic for dental extractions”.

“Dental health in children in Ireland is quite good,” the executive said in a statement, while reiterating the figure of 3,600 per annum given by Varadkar.

The FACCT survey’s first results just published show a substantial improvement since 2002 when the previous survey was undertaken which is above the international norm.
Notwithstanding, the HSE has already undertaken to commence a national audit on general anaesthetic waiting lists for children and for those with special care and special needs.
Every child under 16 years of age is entitled to access care through emergency clinics in the public health system throughout the country.
The HSE is commencing a pilot scheme for 0-3 year-old children (who are deemed a vulnerable group in relation to dental care) to assess what advice should be given to parents regarding diets and tooth brushing and best care of their teeth.

Waiting times for young children with chronic dental infections can be as long as 12 months according to the IDA.

The association has described the figures it released as “a national disgrace” and an indictment of the current and previous governments’ ‘slash and burn’ approach to oral health policy.

In its statement the HSE urges the IDA to “revoke its correspondence of April 2014 to its members directing them not to forward important statistics to the HSE  (including attendance and waiting lists of children) which would facilitate the HSE to strategically address those vulnerable areas of the country requiring more target resources”.

Earlier

Speaking in advance of the Association’s annual seminar for dentists working in the HSE, IDA president Anne Twomey said that 95% of these cases would be avoidable if treated earlier.

“Why are thousands of our young people undergoing the trauma of hospitalisation for multiple dental extractions?” she said.

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.

twomey Anne Twomey Source: Dentist.ie

Twomey has urged the HSE to urgently act with regard to dental waiting lists, before a ‘tragedy occurs’.

“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,” Twomey said.

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.

Put simply this means that a hospital is penalised if a child is forced to wait longer than six months for other procedures, but not dental.

“Our concern is that general anaesthetic services for dentistry will not become a priority until a child has a serious outcome from dental infection,” Twomey added.

Originally published 8.57am

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Cianan Brennan

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