Dentists push for oral health agency

By Jason Pan  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Wed, Oct 31, 2012 - Page 5

The Taiwan Dental Association has proposed adding an oral health agency as part of a government restructuring of the Department of Health into the Ministry of Health and Welfare next year.

The association issued the call for a dedicated agency in the new ministry as it celebrated its 30th anniversary on Monday.

Setting up a “Department of Oral Health” will contribute to the progress of dental health services in the country, it said.

The legislature passed the Oral Cavity Healthcare Act (口腔健康法) in 2003, leading to the establishment of the Oral Medicine Committee as part of the Department of Health, it said.

The committee has served its functions with good results, formulating oral health policies, advocating amendments to relevant laws, and coordinating dental professionals and health resources, the association said.

However, a dedicated agency for oral health is not included in the plans for the new Ministry of Health and Welfare, it said.

“Healthy teeth are critical to overall good health. Compared with Japan, Europe and North America, the rate of tooth decay in Taiwan has to be lowered,” association officials said.

“Gum disease is the main cause of adults losing their teeth,” an association representative said.

“Japan has implemented an ‘80/20 target’ — that is, for 80-year-old citizens to still have 20 real teeth. As for [Taiwan], we have a ‘70/20 target,’ so more work has to be done,” the representative said.

The local oral healthcare industry employs more than 100,000 workers — including dentists, interns, dental assistants, technicians, orthodontists, oral health specialists and dental hygienists, figures from the association showed.

The association also called for more policies to enhance professional specialization, set up an examination and certification system, and formulate a dental medicine law, which can fulfill the requirements of the nation’s dental healthcare system.

In response, a health department spokesperson said the Oral Medicine Committee is currently an ad hoc body, but its responsibility and function will not change when the new ministry is instituted, and there will be no interruption of services and policies for the nation’s oral healthcare.