Halifax – The NSGEU is pleased to see the government’s most recent dental service announcements about increased access to pediatric dental surgeries and the hiring of a Chief Dental Officer. They are both long overdue initiatives that should have been implemented much earlier. This position has been recommended since the 2008 Nova Scotia Oral Review first proposed that it be set up.
We have represented dental hygienists who work in the Department of Public Health for decades. Two years ago, our members formed an Oral Health Working Group and have been lobbying the government to hire a Chief Dental Officer who would oversee the creation and implementation of a provincial oral health strategy. It was discouraging to see a major expansion of children’s dental coverage included in this year’s Provincial Budget but no reference to finally moving ahead with the Chief Dental Officer position. We urged the Minister of Health and Wellness recognize that the two go hand in hand.
Currently, there are the equivalent of 15 dental hygienist positions in Public Health with the District Health Authorities. This small number of staff have been providing oral health services to school aged children, including the Fluoride Mouthrinse program, in targeted schools across the province. Oral health services for school age children vary from DHA to DHA. In some DHAs the staff are able to do oral health assessments, screenings and facilitating treatment for oral health issues. While in other DHAs, the only service available to children has been the Fluoride Mouthrinse program.
We expect the new Chief Dental Officer will address these inconsistencies across the province and look forward to a comprehensive oral health framework for Nova Scotians. We expect these initiatives combined with the expansion of dental coverage for children will help to make a significant difference in the health and well-being of many children who need oral health services but have been unable to access them.