A national oral health programme is being called for to tackle levels of extreme decay amongst children.

Dr Brett Duane, associate professor in dental public health at Dublin Dental University Hospital (DDUH), said a similar programme for kids in Scotland has reduced tooth decay levels by almost a third.

‘Within the community, all children receive free toothbrushes at various stages before school, with all four-year-olds attending nursery school receiving toothbrushing as part of the nursery programme,’ Dr Duane said.

‘In areas of higher risk of dental disease, children receive both fluoride varnish programmes and toothbrushing programmes in the first few years of primary school.’

Dr Duane told delegates at the Irish Dental Association’s (IDA) annual seminar for HSE dentists in Kilkenny that a similar model – Happy Teeth – was trialled in parts of Cork city, but ‘there has been no follow on at national level’.

‘At the same time, our school screening programme is simply not functioning in very many areas,’ he added. ‘We have a template in Childsmile; we just need the will to introduce it here.’

Dr Duane made the call in a joint presentation with Dr Kirsten FitzGerald, consultant paediatric dental surgeon at Our Lady’s Children Hospital, Crumlin.