Smiles for everyone in new dental scheme

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A LIMERICK doctor is spearheading a new dental policy which aims to have everyone smiling from ear to ear.

Dr. Dympna Kavanagh, Chief Dental Officer at the Department of Health, is behind a new government policy which provides free oral healthcare to all children, from birth to 16 years of age, and adults holding medical cards.

Some procedures previously only available in the daunting environment of a hospital can now be carried out in the comfort of a local primary care setting.

This new policy sees a much-needed change from ‘diagnose and treat’ to a ‘proactive and preventative’ approach, available locally at a time which is convenient to the individual looking to visit their dentist.

Focused on three key strategies; Oral Health Promotion and Protection, Service Provision and Evaluation/Surveillance, Smile agus Sláinte will cover a wide range of services, many of which are not available under the current oral health policy.

Services include, but are not limited to, oral health assessments & examinations, preventative interventions such as fissure sealants, restorative treatment, such as fillings, emergency care, diagnostic supports such as radiographs, orthodontic and oral surgery assessments, fluoride therapy, oral cancer risk assessment and advice for alcohol control, tobacco cessation and diet

Speaking in relation to the policy Dr. Kavanagh of the Department of Health comments, “After years of research, consultation and planning by the policy team the Department of Health, fully supported by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty TD and voices from the public and the dental profession, I am thrilled to finally see this new oral health policy come to fruition.

“Through this new system we wish to promote good oral healthcare to improve quality of life, instilling positive oral behaviours and habits from a young age, and at every key milestone into old age. Our primary focus is prevention, enabling the Irish public to access services and forge relationships with oral health professionals of their choice locally.

“Under the current regime there are far too many people falling through the cracks, and children entering the system from 6 years of age who already have dental problems, such as decaying and rotting teeth in the need of fillings and other treatments.”

Under this new policy families, especially in low socioeconomic areas who cannot afford to attend their local private dental practise for check-ups, and instead have to wait to be called for a free dental appointment through the Public Dental Service (PDS) school programme, can now begin taking care of oral health from a young age.

“The freeing-up of the PDS will enable this group to now focus on providing high-support care for vulnerable groups,” Dr  Kavanagh said.