LCQ8: Dental services

     Following is a question by the Hon Tam Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (June 1):


     At present, the Government only provides dental care services to primary school students, but quite a number of members of the public have recently relayed to me that junior secondary school (Form 1 to Form 3) students also have strong demand for dental treatment services, and they thus request the Government to extend the dental care services to junior secondary school students.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the number of attendances for dental treatment under the School Dental Care Service in each of the past three years;

(b) whether the Government has planned to extend the dental care services to junior secondary school students in order to enhance the dental and oral health care for them; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether the Government has planned to bring in private dental practitioners to join the School Dental Care Service so as to provide dental services to junior secondary school students; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?  



(a) The numbers of participants of the School Dental Care Service over the past three years are as follows:

Service        Number of         Percentage against
  Year       participating       the total number
               students          of school students
2007/2008       365,643                 95%
2008/2009       346,672                 94.3%
2009/2010       328,308                 95%

Note: Service year refers to the period from November 1 every year to October 31 of the following year.

(b) and (c) The Government's policy on dental services seeks to improve oral health and prevent dental diseases through promotion and education, thereby raising public awareness of oral health, and facilitating the development of proper oral health habits.  The Oral Health Education Unit under the Department of Health (DH) has launched various educational and promotional programmes specifically for different age groups having regard to their dental care needs.  To encourage primary school students to establish good oral health care habits to prevent dental diseases, we have launched the School Dental Care Service.  

     To help secondary school students pay constant attention to oral health, we have launched the "Teens Teeth" oral health promotion programme to train selected "peer leaders" to help organise oral health promotion activities to disseminate oral health messages to fellow students, and teach Form one students to develop good oral health care habits.  

     Since 2003, DH has launched the annual "Love Teeth Campaigns".  Specific thematic messages are delivered through televisions, newspapers, radio programmes and posters at the Mass Transit Railway to promote oral health and good oral care skills to the community.

     In 2001, DH conducted a territory-wide oral health survey in accordance with the criteria and recommendations of the World Health Organisation.  The targets of the survey were members of the key index age groups, including:

i) 5-year-old children
ii) 12-year-old children
iii) 35-44-year-old adults
iv) 65 and above non-institutionalised elderly people
v) 65 and above elderly people residing in residential care homes.  

     According to the survey, the oral health status of the Hong Kong population was found to be in the same ranking as many other developed countries.  The level of tooth decay among the 12-year-old students was among the world's lowest but their gum condition needed more attention.

     DH is now conducting another territory-wide oral health survey to continuously monitor the oral health status of our population and assess their oral health behaviours and habits.  The information collected could facilitate our planning of oral health programmes for different population groups (including secondary school students).

     At present, we focus our efforts on providing emergency dental services for the public.  DH provides free emergency dental services, covering treatment of acute dental diseases, prescription for pain relief, treatment of oral abscess and teeth extraction through its 11 government dental clinics.  DH's dentists would also give professional advice with regard to the individual needs of patients.

     Moreover, the Food and Health Bureau (FHB) has formed the Task Force on Primary Dental Care and Oral Health under the Working Group of Primary Care since December 2010 to, among other things, provide advice on initiatives to promote and enhance primary dental care and oral health.  It comprises members from the dental profession, academics, patient groups, Hospital Authority and representatives from FHB, DH and Social Welfare Department.  

     The Task Force has advised that priority should be given to improving oral health of and dental care for needy elderly.  The Government has thus launched a pilot project in partnership with non-government organisations for a period of three years to provide elderly people residing in residential care homes or receiving services in day care centres with outreach primary dental care and oral health care services since April 2011.  The Task Force will further consider the oral health status and dental care needs of the different population groups including secondary school students with a view to advising on feasible strategies to improve their oral health.

Ends/Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Issued at HKT 13:16