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LCQ1: Public dental services
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hoi-yan and a reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Professor Sophia Chan, in the Legislative Council today (June 22):
     There are views pointing out that comprehensive public dental services are not available in Hong Kong at present. When members of the public have oral health problems, they need to seek consultation from private dental clinics which charge exorbitant fees, or wait for general public dental services which have limited quotas and only provide basic treatment such as tooth extraction and pain relief. Besides, the service targets of the School Dental Care Service of the Department of Health are limited to primary school students and students under the age of 18 who are studying in special schools. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it will consider extending the School Dental Care Service to cover secondary school students; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that (including the difficulties that it will face);
(2) whether it will, by drawing reference from the model of the School Dental Care Service, consider according priority to the provision of dental care services once a year for people in specific age groups (e.g. the elderly); if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) whether it will consider drawing reference from the experience of overseas regions, for instance, the "8020 Movement" introduced by the Japan authorities for helping its nationals to keep at least 20 natural teeth at the age of 80, so as to formulate the oral health policy and the development direction of dental services for Hong Kong; if so, of the details and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?

     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Chan Hoi-yan is as follows:

     Proper oral health habits are key to the effective prevention of dental diseases. As such, the Government's policy on dental care seeks to raise public awareness of oral health and encourage proper oral health habits, through promotion and education, thereby improving oral health and preventing dental diseases. 

(1) and (2) Dental care services in Hong Kong are mainly provided by the private sector and non-governmental organisations. In accordance with the prevailing policy, the Government mainly undertakes publicity, education (including the School Dental Care Service (SDCS)), promotion of oral health and provision of emergency dental services for the public; and takes forward initiatives targeting persons with special dental care needs, in particular elderly persons with financial difficulties and persons with difficulties in accessing general dental services such as the Outreach Dental Care Programme for the Elderly and the Community Care Fund Elderly Dental Assistance Programme. Elderly persons may also use vouchers under the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme to receive private dental services.

     Moreover, the Oral Health Education Division (OHED) of the Department of Health (DH) has implemented oral health promotion programmes targeting different age groups and disseminated oral health information through different channels to raise public awareness of oral hygiene and oral health.

     In addition to the above measures, primary school students in Hong Kong, as well as students aged under 18 years old with intellectual disability and/or physical disability (such as cerebral palsy) studying in special schools, can join the SDCS of the DH to receive annual check-ups at designated school dental clinics, which cover oral examination as well as basic treatment and preventive care services. The SDCS also helps educate students about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene and preventive care at an early stage. In each of the past three school years, over 94 per cent of primary school students (i.e. more than 330 000 primary school students from ordinary or special schools) participated in the SDCS.

     To sustain the efforts made in primary schools, the OHED has launched a school-based programme named "Teens Teeth" for secondary schools since 2005. Under this programme, senior secondary school students are trained to promote and educate lower-form schoolmates about the importance of oral health care and hygiene with a peer-led approach (i.e. train-the-trainers). Once students develop good dental care habits since childhood (especially when in primary schools), they can continue to protect their teeth on their own when they go to secondary schools.
(3) Regarding setting oral health goals for Hong Kong, the FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly established the first Global Oral Health Goals in 1981 to be achieved by 2000. A review of these goals revealed that, while a majority of population had achieved or exceeded them, a significant proportion of the world's population still has not achieved these goals. Therefore, in 2003, the FDI and WHO suggested the concept "think globally, act locally" and considered that it would be more practical for different countries and regions to set their respective oral health policy development and organise different activities so as to achieve the goals that suit their situation. Early in 1991, Hong Kong established the oral health goals to be achieved by 2010 and 2025 and planned for the implementation of the recommendations. 
     The DH conducts a territory-wide Oral Health Survey (OHS) every ten years. Following the OHS 2001 and 2011, the DH commenced the OHS 2021 in November 2021 to collect information about the prevailing oral health conditions of the local population. The Expert Group of the DH will review and advise on the setting of appropriate oral health goals taking into account the age groups (including children and the elderly) set in the OHS 2001 and 2011, the local situation, and the results of the OHS 2021. 
     The Government is well aware of Members' and the public's keen demand in regard of dental care services. The Government will listen to different views and formulate relevant policies with a view to achieving oral health goals, promoting oral health of the public, and continuing to take care of persons with special needs, in particular persons with intellectual disability who have special dental needs and elderly persons with financial difficulties. To this end, the Government will also review and consider regularisation of dental services funded by different schemes (including the Elderly Health Care Voucher Scheme, the Community Care Fund Elderly Dental Assistance Programme, etc) with a view to ensuring more effective dental services for the elderly and needy, and will also examine dental services as part of primary healthcare services under the framework of the Primary Healthcare Blueprint.
     Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Issued at HKT 17:30
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