Written Answers. - Dental Services.

Trevor Sargent


217 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Health the proposals, if any, he has in relation to the situation whereby dental treatment in schools is only available to children in 2, 4 and 6 classes unless the child is in pain and whereby children in other classes in primary school who have orthodontic problems which do not necessarily cause pain but which do need to be treated as soon as possible may not avail of treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [762/94]

Health boards are now adopting a planned systematic approach to the delivery of dental services to national school children in preference to a demand based system. The results of epidemiological surveys show that a planned preventive service targeted at specific groups of children results in better dental health for the whole population of children.

The school based system ensures a more equitable distribution of the dental resources available. This approach aims to examine all children in specific classes and to provide treatment if necessary. These classes are chosen with preventative treatments in mind and to ensure that children are dentally fit before they leave national school.

It is hoped that, in this way, children for whom a service was previously rarely, if ever, demanded and those in greatest need of dental care, will be screened, advised of the services available, educated in dental hygiene and referred for treatment as necessary. This development seeks to provide the optimum service to those in need and to ensure that all children have equal access to the same level of care.
The small number of children who require more frequent screenings, such as medically compromised and the handicapped will receive it under the systematic approach.
The planned systematic approach to provide dental care for children after they leave national school will be introduced, on a phased basis, over the next four years to care for their oral health until they reach their 16th birthday. If a child is in pain or there is a matter of urgent concern to a parent concerning their child's dental health an emergency clinic is available each morning in most health centres.