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Dentists call on HSE to give them role in tobacco control

Smoking “still the biggest cause of cancer”, association says

Dentists have called on the HSE to give them a key role in the State’s tobacco control strategy, similar to the practice in Sweden. The Irish Dentists’ Association (IDA) said its members were “ideally placed” to advise patients on smoking’s risks.

IDA general practitioner committee chairman, Dr Peter Gannon, said smoking was still the “single biggest cause of cancer in Ireland” and one in three adults smoke – as in one million people.

It is “no coincidence” that Swedish dentists are involved in their country’s approach to the problem, he said, speaking at the association’s annual conference in Galway late last week.

“Sweden is the only country in Europe which has reached the World Health Organisation target of reducing the number of adults smoking to one in five,” he said.

And while many people were aware of the dangers of lung cancer , they were not so familiar with other negative effects of smoking on oral health, he said.

Such effects include the development of oral cancer, with smokers who drink being at greatest risk. Periodontal (gum) disease, which is the most common cause of tooth loss, is also a risk factor, and people who develop it run greater risk of heart disease and stroke, he said.

“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,” he said, as this could detect conditions early enough for treatment.

The association’s conference had been told that three out of four people who were entitled to free dental check-ups did not avail of them, due to misinformation.

The IDA believes the HSE needs to publicise this entitlement through distribution of vouchers.

Dr Gannon also emphasised the detrimental effects that cutbacks to the public dental service were having on children and special needs patients.

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