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News / April 15, 2008

Northern Ireland scraps school dental screenings

by Guy Hiscott

Northern Ireland’s Acting Chief Dental Officer, Donncha O’Carolan, has issued a statement that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) is scrapping the current programme of school dental screenings once those for the 2007/08 school year have been completed.

This decision has been made following the results of research from the University of Manchester on the effectiveness of school dental screening programmes. This study concluded that: ‘School dental screening has a minimal impact on dental attendance and only a small proportion of screened children receive appropriate treatment. The programme fails to reduce inequalities in utilisation of dental services’.

Following on from this, the National Screening Committee (NSC) told the UK Chief Dental Officers that there is no evidence to support the screening for dental disease among children aged six to nine years. The NSC further advised that the resources used for screening be redeployed to interventions, which are more effective in reducing inequalities in oral health.

Given the findings of the most recent research coupled with the advice from the NSC, and taking into consideration the impact of positive consent on screening, the DHSSPS has concluded that the programme of school dental screening does not meet the Department’s aims of improving the oral health of Northern Ireland’s population and reducing inequalities.

Trusts have been asked to redeploy the resources used on screening into the other priority business areas outlined in the Community Dental Service corporate plan, issued by the DHSSPS in September 2006.

This policy change does not relate to children in special schools, who are considered to be a separate group.