Why are our government not doing more for our children?

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Below is a shocking video from Jamie Oliver showing a six year boy having his decayed teeth extracted under General Anaesthetic in a hospital in the UK. We have taken an initiative here in Mullingar Dental to help teach good oral hygiene habits to young children.

Jamie’s video is very graphic and shows exactly what happens when a child has teeth extracted under General Anaesthetic. This is a completely preventable situation and is not one any six year old should find themselves in!

We have taken an initiative here in Mullingar Dental to help teach good oral hygiene habits to young children.

Scotland introduced the Childsmile scheme in 2007 in a bid to reduce the rate of dental decay in Scottish children. Childsmile offers young children free tooth brushes, tooth paste and two fluoride varnish applications per year. Children attending nursery, and those in primary schools in deprived areas, are offered supervised daily brushing. To quote Public Health Minister Maureen Watt “it’s a tremendous example of spending to save”. In addition to free dental treatments, the scheme gives parents and adult carers dietary advice to help them prevent decay.

The program has been hugely successful in reducing the level of decay in young children. Oral health affects general health, so these improvements in oral health have had added overall health benefits also. It is estimated that the scheme is saving almost 5 million per year in treatment costs!

Here in Ireland, all children under the age of 16 are entitled to free treatment provided by the Public Dental Service in local HSE clinics.  However,due to cutbacks and staff embargos ,the reality is that most children are only offered a very limited emergency service, and the first visit for a full dental examination is now only available to 6th Class students. This is horrendous and has huge long term consequences both for oral and general health.

We were asked to visit a local play school last year, Little Friends in Raheen, Mullingar. When we arrived for our visit, we were completely gob-smacked by all the work done by the staff to educate the children and parents about oral health and visiting the dentist, prior to our visit. Tooth brushing charts had been sent home, games about healthy eating played, colouring done and all the books on dental care had been borrowed from Mullingar Library.  

This prompted us to think how this program could be easily replicated in all preschools in the Mullingar area.  Our two young dentists, Chloe Kelly and Grainne O’Rourke have helped us by visiting all the local preschools who agreed to provide a similar education program for their students. Sparkles, the tooth brushing puppet, has attended the visits also and is going down a treat with the little ones.  

If even one less child needs a general anaesthetic for dental decay as a result of our efforts, it will have been worthwhile.

We now need to ask why the HSE are not providing a service like Child Smile and parents need to ask their local politicians about the provision of dental care to their children. We urge you to write a letter/email to your local politicians and put pressure on them to provide better oral health care services for our children. Prevention is always better than cure! Even implementing a limited playschool initiative like ours on a nationwide basis would be a start.