Ask the Dentist: Northern Ireland's oral health in dire need of investment not cuts

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says dentists have been angered by cuts to the health budget

The British Dental Association says Stormont needs to deliver a new oral health strategy, to replace its decade-old plan
Lucy Stock

THE British Dental Association has attacked plans to seek £70 million of savings from the health service in Northern Ireland.

The budget for general and primary dental services in Northern Ireland has fallen in real terms year on year since 2012, while tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admissions among children.

The BDA has long argued that Stormont needs to deliver a new oral health strategy, to replace its decade-old plan. In the face of ever-growing demand, it has called for appropriate investment in prevention among children and young people, with reformed contracts and coherent workforce planning to ensure the sustainability of the service.

The BDA will be responding to the cuts consultation on behalf of the profession. Roslyn McMullan, chair of the BDA's Northern Ireland Council said: "When tooth extractions are the leading cause of our children undergoing general anaesthetic, cutting front-line services smacks of recklessness. This service is already running on empty, and taking further resources out will only place greater strain on our GPs, hospitals and A&E units.

"Northern Ireland has the worst oral health inequalities in the UK and the authorities need to stop seeking false economies. They cannot continue abdicating their responsibility to curb decay in young people, or to engage with the growing challenges of an ageing population.

"The morale of front-line staff is at an all-time low. Government has failed to modernise the service, or offer contracts that are fit for purpose. It will need to show it is prepared to put patients first.”

Taking responsibility for your own health and that of your family has never been so important. It is becoming increasing apparent that not looking after our own bodies adequately and expecting health care to fix us is unrealistic.

By looking at out diets and tweaking them to be more tooth friendly we can reduce how many fillings we and our children need. By reducing how often we have a sugary snack we can allow our teeth to remain strong and pain free. By cleaning our teeth twice a day every day and between the teeth every day, we can keep more of our teeth for life.

These small changes in our daily routine can have a massive impact on the health of our mouth and body. We all know that changes are difficult but prevention really is the key to living a better quality of life.

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