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​Oral health takes centre stage at Stormont

17 October 2019




A capacity audience of over 80 key stakeholders including dentists, public health representatives, health spokespeople from the main political parties, policymakers, advocates and charities will descend on Stormont today, to take part in an Oral Health Matters summit.


The BDA organised event will hear from dental experts on the state of oral health in Northern Ireland, including those involved in delivering care to the most vulnerable children and elderly, BDA NI representatives, the Chief Dental Officer and the Head of Dental Services at HSCB. A feedback session will give invited guests the opportunity to have their say in looking forward to a new vision for oral health in Northern Ireland.


Oral health in Northern Ireland has, for many years, been considered the worst in the whole of the UK. Despite recognised progress, considerable challenges continue to be faced in 2019, not least affecting the youngest and oldest cohorts of the population.


The evidence shows:


  • Just 19% of 15-year-old children were considered to have 'good oral health' according to the most recent Child Oral Health Survey published in 2015;
  • Almost 5,000 (4,724) children faced tooth extraction under General Anaesthetic (GA) in Northern Ireland in 2017/18 (x3 times pro-rata than England);
  • The Community Dental Service is currently struggling to provide a comprehensive screening and treatment service for elderly care home residents; given demographic changes, these pressures are only set to increase;
  • The current Northern Ireland Oral Health Strategy dates back to 2007; there is a policy vacuum in relation to oral health, and in linking oral health with wider public health goals.

Speaking in advance of the event, Caroline Lappin, Chair of BDA NI Council said:


"Dental disease is almost entirely preventable, yet every day dentists continue to see unacceptably high numbers of often very young children present to have multiple teeth extracted under General Anaesthetic. The sugar epidemic is fuelling ill health, and we need to take action now here in Northern Ireland.


"At the other end of the age spectrum, we are seeing an explosion of increasingly complex oral health needs from a rapidly growing elderly population that are also retaining some of their natural teeth into old age. Currently, resources are insufficient to meet the level of need which is predicted to multiply in the coming years. In light of the significant challenges we face, the case for a renewed focus and vision for oral health is undeniable."    


Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People commented:


"For children to have the best start in life, it's time that we turned the page on having the worst child oral health outcomes across these islands. Behind the shocking statistics are individual children and young people who deserve better. Oral health absolutely matters to children. More can and should be done, and I fully support renewed vision and commitment towards tackling oral health inequalities that are so apparent."


Eddie Lynch, Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland commented:


"As Commissioner for Older People, I'm acutely aware that when health needs are not being adequately met, it can have a disproportionate impact among our older population. This is also true for good oral health, which is essential for an older person's ability to eat, drink and communicate, not to mention the links between oral health and general health.


"I commend the BDA for highlighting the gaps in oral care provision and offer my full support behind the important Oral Health Matters message. It's essential that meaningful steps are taken to urgently improve oral care provision for the benefit of older people in Northern Ireland."


Caroline Lappin, BDA NI Council Chair added:


"We desperately need to turn the page on oral health outcomes here. Today's event is about bringing key stakeholders together, and widening out the conversation to those with influence to bear over the oral health outcomes of young children and elderly adults.


We are delighted that the desire on the part of dentists to see oral health prioritised has resonated widely. Reconnecting oral health with general health, prioritising prevention and addressing common risk factors such as sugar consumption is key if we are serious about making progress on public health outcomes."


BDA Northern Ireland

BDA Northern Ireland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Northern Ireland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts. Join us.