Irish Dental Association pushes tobacco control strategy

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) is asking the Health Service Executive (HSE) to give dentists a more prominent role in the country's tobacco control strategy.

Peter Gannon, chair of the IDA's General Practitioner Committee, told delegates at the association's annual conference in Galway last week that, contrary to popular perception, smoking remains the biggest killer of Irish people. In Ireland, one in three adults smoke, he added.

The IDA believes that while many people are aware of the dangers of lung cancer, they are not familiar with the many other detrimental effects smoking can have on oral health, such as oral cancer, periodontal disease, tooth loss, dry socket, and implant failure. Dentists can demonstrate to patients who smoke the effects it has on their oral health with the use of an intraoral camera and other aids, Gannon noted.

Gannon also pointed out the detrimental effects cutbacks to Public Dental Service were having on children and special needs patients.

"For example, school screenings should take place in 2nd, 4th, and 6th classes. When this happens, issues are spotted early and dentists can also advise young people on good oral health practice, such as the dangers of smoking," he said in an IDA news release. "Now, due to the moratorium on hiring new staff, in many parts of the country -- including here in Galway -- these screenings don't take place until 6th class or until the children are in their teens. But it's too late at that stage."

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