School dental care queried

GROWING numbers of parents are digging deep to get their children regular dental visits as soaring demand makes public services less available.

One Warwick mother, who did not want to be named, said she remembered when school dentist trips were an annual event and was not sure why things had changed.

"My daughter is in Grade 4 and she has never been to the school dental van," she said.

"I took her to a private dentist last year because I didn't want to wait until it got to the point where she was in pain and needed a filling or tooth pulled out.

"The school dental system is great, but I just wish the kids were able to go about once a year so we could keep on top of it.

"It isn't cheap to go to a private dentist and not all families can afford it."

Granite Belt Dental principal dentist Michael Letters applauded the efforts of school dental staff, but said more resources needed to be made available.

"The girls who work in the school dental system do a great job, but they are hugely under-resourced and in many ways that system is failing," Dr Letters said.

"A very large proportion of people are now opting to see a private dentist every year to maintain that level of oral health in the kids and to give kids a smile to last a lifetime."

Dr Letters advised parents against leaving dental visits until the point where a painful problem presented, as it could affect a child's physical and emotional well-being.

He said it was "deeply concerning" that it took a toothache for some children to see a dentist.

"If children are coming in just for emergencies, they become familiar with this and can develop anxiety about going to the dentist, which they also take into adulthood," Dr Letters said.

Demand for dental care is soaring across the state. An average of 1567 dental appointments are provided to children every day and 645 children complete a course of dental treatment every day.

Queensland Health chief dental officer Dr Rhys Thomas said Queensland had the most generous dental system in the country.

"Public dental care in Queensland is free for eligible patients," he said.

"Unlike most other state and territory public oral health services, patients are not required to make any co-payment."

Regional Health Service district acting CEO Dr Peter Bristow said Warwick children received dental treatment on a routine basis when dental vans visited.

"The vans rotate around Warwick schools throughout the year to ensure the best and fairest distribution of dental services to local children," Mr Bristow said.

"If a child has toothache or a dental issue outside of these routine visits, parents should phone the Warwick Hospital dental clinic on 4660 3900."

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