We've been campaigning for a new oral health strategy for many years. That's why BDA Northern Ireland Director Tristen Kelso and I were delighted to highlight the need for it, and to point out some of the shocking stats on the state of our children's teeth on Northern Visions TV recently.
I was actually on the working group for the 2007 strategy, that's 12 years ago now, and the figures we used as our evidence base, were of course, older than that.
I've said that I think we past even evaluating that strategy as it is now so long ago.
What we need to do now is to ensure that we have an evidence-based, effective strategy that can measure the effects of what we are doing. This cannot be done in a piecemeal way, we have to have a strategy and a plan, backed up with real investment.
The most common reason for a child to be admitted to hospital is for decayed teeth and shockingly over 22,000 teeth were removed in those children, that's an average of 4 teeth per child.
Those are enormous figures, but if you drill it down to what it means for an individual child and their family, it is heart-breaking.
It is sleepless nights, in pain, affecting the whole family, loss of time at school and maybe poor performance at school. The parents or carers will have to take time off work (often which they can ill afford to do), to take their child to hospital. Not to mention the stress and upset for the whole family.
And we know it is entirely preventable.
We are incredibly frustrated that the funds from the sugar levy are not being directed where they should.
In the absence of a functioning Executive and Government, we have been left in limbo, and it begs the question, where has that money gone?
We want to see it being invested strategically in improving public health and oral health and not used for firefighting and plugging the holes in the leaking dam.
We have been calling for a new strategy for so long now, and we feel the response from the Department of Health has been wanting.
We've written to the Permanent Secretary and we are hoping to meet with him in the near future, to articulate some of these issues. We've also been engaging with the HSCB and raising these issues constantly with the Chief Dental Officer.
We've also taken the unprecedented step of writing to the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, because with no functioning Government, we feel answers are needed on ensuring that the money that should be earmarked for oral health, is not disappearing into a black hole.
Roz McMullan, Chair Northern Ireland Council
BDA Northern Ireland
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