Children’s dental care programme needs proper funding – Senator Reilly
Sinn Fein’s Senator Kathryn Reilly has reacted strongly to the Irish Dental Association (IDA) report that every year children under the age of 15 are ending up in hospitals around the country to have teeth removed because of government cuts to free dental care.
Senator Reilly said:
“The IDA has credited Government cuts to family dental supports since 2010 as the cause of children having to be hospitalised to have teeth removed. These cuts combined with 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 diet containing too much sugar has meant that these services should be expanding not contracting.
“The culmination of these issues is resulting in young children being on waiting lists for up to 12 months and having to attend a hospital to avail of dental surgery. The cuts to dental services are causing serious problems for children and families.
“I raised this issue myself in the Seanad in February, and my colleague councillor Noel Connell raised it at Council level.
“Dental health is as essential an issue as any when it comes to ensuring the future well-being of our children. As we all know, dental complications can lead to serious illness and disease. If the Government are serious about children and their health, it must ensure that dangers are minimised, not just for patient health but also for the savings this could bring to the cost of dental services provision in the longer term if problems are detected and dealt with at an earlier stage.
“The State provides free dental services to persons under 16 years of age. However, reductions in staff and funding have led to cutbacks in the service and this has resulted in delays in dentist visits with many children not being seen until they are 11 or 12 years of age. Seeing a dentist for the first time at 12 years of age or so could be too late to stop major problems with decay and gum disease. It is tantamount to closing the door after the horse has bolted.
“The failure to provide timely screening and treatment of simple problems or early onset of dental disease causes severe deterioration which then requires more complex remedial treatments. The State services often cannot provide these and many families simply cannot afford them, particularly given current economic circumstances.
“In order to make sure our children’s dental health is looked after, the free dental care programmed needs to be properly funded. This makes both immediate and long term sense for our children’s dental health and financially for the state.”