Multi-million pound price of inaction on kids teeth in Northern Ireland
20 March 2018
The British Dental Association Northern Ireland has thrown its support behind calls from the NI Assembly for root and branch reform of oral health strategy, as new analysis shows extractions of multiple teeth among under-18s could be costing the health service over £9 million a year.
Tooth decay is the number one reason for child hospital admissions in Northern Ireland. 5,122 children were admitted to hospital last year for removal of 22,699 teeth. Based on official data the BDA estimates the procedures – which took place under general anaesthetic - cost the service in the region of £9,347,650.
The BDA has warmly welcomed calls from MLA Roy Beggs for authorities to revisit the approach to oral health strategy across Northern Ireland, and to learn vital lessons from the dedicated programmes in Scotland and Wales that are securing transformative improvements in children's oral health. The Scottish Childsmile initiative has reportedly reduced dental treatment costs by £5 million a year, through outreach in schools and nurseries.
Dentist leaders have been encouraged by a wide range of small scale initiatives across Northern Ireland to tackle the problem, but have called for a coordinated and appropriately funded NI-wide strategy.
Northern Ireland is at the bottom of the league table when it comes to children's oral health outcomes in the UK, with 40% of 5-year-olds showing signs of decay, compared to 25% in England.
Northern Ireland Council Chair Roz McMullan said:
"With the health service facing huge pressures, Northern Ireland needs to confront a wholly preventable disease that not only causes untold misery, but is now costing us millions.
"Our Oral Health Strategy is well past its sell by date. Governments in Wales and Scotland have shown there's nothing inevitable about child tooth decay, and we can't afford not to put those lessons into practice.
"We have seen a patchwork of schemes make welcome progress, but what we desperately need now is a joined-up approach."
The BDA has analysed official data for tooth extractions. Returns from Belfast, Northern, South Eastern, Southern and Western Trusts indicate there were 5,122 cases of General Anaesthesia (GA) Dental Extractions carried out on children in secondary care in 2016/17. Health Service schedule of costs for elective procedures in that period attribute a mean cost of £1,825 for Extraction of Multiple Teeth, among children of 18 years and under.
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.