Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
Monday - Thursday
Tuesday and Friday mornings
Three out of four people not receiving free dental check
New figures from the Irish Dental Association (IDA) show that 75% of people who are entitled to a free dental examination do not avail of the service.
The IDA said cutbacks to the two main dental health schemes and ongoing confusion over people’s entitlements have led to an alarming deterioration in dental health. Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan said that simple preventive treatments were key to maintaining good dental health.
“In their absence dentists are seeing a huge increase in dental decay and gum disease. Other problems that may be caused or made worse by poor dental health include heart disease, strokes, diabetes, premature and low birth weight babies, and respiratory disease.”
The IDA believes that timely and cost-effective measures by Government could arrest the shocking decline in the nation’s dental health. It says the Government should:
• introduce a voucher system for the annual oral examination;
• gradually restore benefits to the Medical Card and PRSI schemes; and,
• restore the marginal rate of tax relief.
“Everyone would have an entitlement to a voucher and would receive one. We think it would be seen as a service they have paid for in the case of PRSI employees, and one they are entitled to by medical card holders. If people had an actual voucher they might be more inclined to avail of the service and this could save them painful and costly treatment down the line,” he concluded.
Dental Association urges HSE to give dentists role in tobacco control
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has called on the HSE to give dentists a key role in tobacco control strategy. Dr Peter Gannon told delegates at the Association’s Annual Conference that smoking remains the biggest killer of Irish people.
“Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer and in Ireland one in three adults smoke. Sweden is the only country in Europe that has reached the World Health Organisation target of reducing the number of adults smoking to one in five. It is no coincidence that Swedish dentists played a key role in that country’s tobacco control strategy,” he said.
The IDA believes that while many people are aware of the dangers of lung cancer, they are not familiar with the effects smoking can have on oral health. These include:
• oral cancer – kills two people every week, and smokers who drink are at greatest risk;
• periodontal (gum) disease – the most common cause of tooth loss, and people who have it are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke;
• problems with wound healing – can lead to dry socket, which can cause severe pain after an extraction;
• bad breath, cracking and staining of teeth; and,
• failure of dental implants.
“Dentists carry out cancer screening as part of their routine examinations and that is why it is very important that people avail of the free annual oral examination, which most adults are entitled to. Dentists can also demonstrate to patients who smoke the effects it has on their oral health,” Dr Gannon said.
100,000 Irish people suffer from sleep apnoea
Over 100,000 Irish people suffer from sleep apnoea, but according to an expert on the disorder, 90% of sufferers are undiagnosed. Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway collapses and there is a cessation of airflow for 10 seconds. If this happens constantly during the night, every night, it prevents the person getting the deep sleep required to function normally.
• inappropriate fatigue;
• choking episodes during sleep;
• excessive napping;
• bruxism (tooth grinding);
• irritability, anxiety and poor mental functioning; and,
Consultant Respiratory Physician Dr Michael McWeeney says the prevalence of the condition is rising with our increasing awareness.
“Overall we believe the condition affects between 2.5 and 4% of the population. We are in an obesity epidemic and that increases the severity of apnoea. Poor muscle tone and alcohol consumption also increase the risk. Some 30% of men snore, while the figure for women is around 10%. Not everyone who snores has apnoea; however, if a person who snores suffers from constant fatigue despite adequate sleep, they should visit a doctor to get a diagnosis,” he said.
Dr Dermot Canavan, who specialises in the treatment of orofacial pain, pointed out that dentists are in a position to provide oral appliances that can be used in mild to moderate cases of sleep apnoea.
“Sleep apnoea is an extremely debilitating condition and the earlier it is identified the greater the likelihood of successful treatment,” he said.