Children on waiting list for general anesthesia akin to abuse, dentist says
A dentist in Taranaki warned that wait times for children requiring dental treatment under general anesthesia amounted to abuse.
Dr Mary Anne Costelloe says about 100 children in the area wait up to a year for treatment, often with chronic pain.
Dr Costelloe said the number of children with advanced dental caries has increased since the removal of fluoride from New Plymouth’s water supply in 2011.
“There is a need for advanced dental care for children in Taranaki, especially since the fluoridation has been phased out, but the GA service for children has not increased since then and the waiting list has increased and it is growing. ‘Now extends to over a year for a child to wait in pain on this list. “
The Stratford dentist said if a child had more than two broken teeth or generalized decay, he was referred to the district health board for treatment under general anesthesia.
Children in need of this level of care often suffered.
“They often cry at night and limit their eating because food gets stuck between their teeth. Thus, they tend to eat mostly softer foods that do not help the rate of decay in their mouth and they are generally unsociable and are a stress in the household which is often already stressed because of other problems. And this often occurs in poorer households. “
Dr Costelloe believed cost was the root cause of the delays and was concerned that policy changes regarding the use of minimal sedation would force dentists to refer even more children to DHBs for treatment instead of doing so. work themselves.
She said if the proposed changes were passed, her practice alone would refer 50 more children a year to the waitlist for general anesthesia in Taranaki.
In a statement, Taranaki DHB Allied Health Director Katy Sheffield confirmed that there were 101 children on her waiting list for dental treatment under GA and that they would typically wait 4 to 8 months for the treatment, except for acute cases which have been advanced.
Sheffield said it was difficult to say what effect the lack of fluoridation in New Plymouth’s water supply had on the numbers as other factors were also influencing.
“These other important factors affecting the oral health of children include diet and lifestyle choices, a nationwide shortage of community oral health personnel and, more recently, service restrictions from Covid-19. “
She said hospital dentistry was not specifically funded for general anesthesia and there was no funding just for children.
Sheffield said the DHB was changing its policies on general anesthesia for the dental treatment of children and youth, but was unsure what effect this would have on wait times.
“The minimal sedation contract with two providers is aligned with best practice standards to ensure safe services are provided in the community.
“This may mean that more children and adolescents will be treated with GA. However, we are exploring options to mitigate the risk that this may increase wait times. “
It’s cold comfort to Dr Costelloe who said that waiting so long was neglect.
“And child neglect is often seen as a form of child abuse and neglect on these lists, I don’t think it’s acceptable.”
The health ministry said nationwide 3,537 children aged 0 to 14 were awaiting dental treatment in a hospital – usually under general anesthesia.
He said he was aware of DHB plans to develop national guidelines for treating the oral health of children under general anesthesia, but they had not yet been finalized.