Seán Crowe TD has said the waiting lists for Health Service Executive dental services are failing to deliver for children and this is putting their oral health at risk with 16,603 currently waiting between 6 months and a year for an assessment and 1,500 for treatment. Crowe said the current delays in being assessed means that many children are reaching 16 years of age the cut-off limit and are missing out on their chance as they are no longer eligible for orthodontic treatment. Eligibility for dental services is a statutory entitlement under the Health Acts. Up to 1 million children up to the age of 15yrs are eligible for HSE Dental services and are all provided free of charge.

The clinical services provided by the HSE include: Emergency Care, targeted prevention and treatment services for children, planned care for children and adults with special care needs and hospital services including General Anaesthesia.

Deputy Crowe said: “Children have legal entitlements to three routine dental screenings; however, figures revealed by the Health Service Executive have shown that in practice children in CHO7 area are not being provided with the necessary screening and checks. “In the CHO7 area which covers Tallaght and the South West area including West Wicklow and parts of Kildare there were in March of this year, 16,603 children on waiting lists between 6 months and a year for an assessment and 1,500 waiting roughly the same for treatment “This is completely unacceptable-the oral health of these children is being threatened because the government refuse to invest in a dental service that can deliver for children. “Many parents, who can ill afford the cost, are being forced to go down the expensive private dentist route for services that are supposed to be free because of the direct impact these delays are having on their child or children. “For years the public dental service suffered cut after cut and this combination with a serious lack of resources is what is causing the huge waiting lists and backlog.

“The delay in the current scheme also means that many children, once they reach the 16 years of age limit, are missing out on their chance being no longer eligible for orthodontic treatment. This can have a huge impact on a child and can impact on their confidence, health and well-being as they move into adulthood. “These Health Service Executive figures clearly show that the current dental system is not delivering for 10’s of thousands of children. We need to see targeted investment in the dental services across the state, our children and young people cannot be left behind when it comes to oral health and are not getting their legal entitlements when it comes to health. “Helping children develop healthy habits to care for teeth while they are young is hugely important. These habits can set the stage for good oral health care throughout their entire life. They can also help avoid many of the problems that result from poor oral health, including gum disease and tooth decay.

Cleaning teeth isn’t a guarantee against tooth decay. The types of food and drink you give your child also affect dental health and the development of tooth decay.

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Babies under 4-6 months

Newborns and young babies need only breastmilk or formula. When your baby is old enough to drink something other than milk, water is the best option.

Babies over 6-8 months

When your baby is 6-8 months, she can start to use a cup for drinking. A bottle isn’t necessary after 12 months of age. Avoid giving your baby sweetened milk, fruit juice or cordials. These drinks increase the risk of tooth decay.

Older babies, children and teenagers

Children need a wide variety of healthy foods and snacks. Foods and drinks that are low in sugar are best. Avoid giving your children sweet biscuits or cakes as treats. If your child does eat something sweet, drinking a glass of water or eating tooth-friendly food afterwards can reduce the amount of acid on your child’s teeth.

Tooth-friendly foods are low in sugar, promote chewing and get your child’s saliva going. Some good examples of tooth-friendly foods include cheese and chopped vegetables like carrot and celery.

The longer food and drink stays in your child’s mouth, the more chance there is for acid to develop and cause damage to tooth enamel. This means that nibbling foods and sipping drinks – especially sugary foods and drinks – over longer periods of time is more likely to cause tooth decay.

You can discourage your child from long periods of eating or drinking by:

  • having regular snack and meal times, rather than letting your child ‘graze’ all day – aim to leave 1½-2 hours between meals and snacks (including sweet drinks)
  • making sure your child eats and drinks in one place only – for example, at the table
  • putting food away when snack time or mealtime is over
  • encouraging your child to drink tap water if he’s thirsty, rather than juice, cordial or soft drink
  • giving your child sweet foods as part of a meal rather than as a snack.

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