Researchers demand publicly provided dental care for youth

Report: 30% of those queried in a survey said they had to forgo dental treatments because of the expense.

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September 5, 2007 23:20
3 minute read.
Researchers demand publicly provided dental care for youth

old dentist 298.88. (photo credit: Isaac Harari)

 
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The state is failing in its duty to provide basic dental care to children, the elderly and other needy groups, according to the Taub Center for Social Policy in Israel, which recommends that basic care be provided them to reduce inequity. In a 50-page report written by the independent, non-profit Jerusalem-based center, established by the American Joint Distribution Committee, the two authors state that 30 percent of those queried in a survey said they had to forgo dental treatments because of the expense. Dr. Tuviya Horev, deputy director of the Taub Center, and Prof. Jonathan Mann, head of the department of community dentistry at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, declared that dental care has long been a "stepchild" of the public health system. Although the Shoshana Netanyahu State Commission on the Health System, whose recommendations formed the base for the 1994 National Health Insurance Law, recommended that at least schoolchildren get free dental care, it was never applied. Horev and Mann stated that most Israeli children are deprived of proper dental care, which the state was to have provided but "which it avoided on a systematic basis." They called for state dental coverage to be applied in three stages: inclusion of children up to age nine by the end of 2009; from 2010 to the end of 2011 to children up to the age of 12, and by the end of 2012 to all youngsters up to age 16. Horev and Mann stated that while excellent dental care is available, only those who can afford it have access to it. As a result, more than half of Israelis over 65 have none of their original teeth left because they did not get adequate or any care when they were younger. Many studies have shown that diseased teeth and gums are not limited to the mouth, but that infection and inflammation affect the heart, blood vessels and other organs, sometimes even threatening life. The lack of equity in accessibility to dental care, they wrote, cannot continue. In countries where the government intervenes in the provision of dental care, the gaps in dental health between the rich and the poor are minimized. The authors and Taub Center director Dr. Ya'acov Kopp urged the government to allocate funds to provide dental care to schoolchildren, as stated - but ignored - in the National Health Insurance Law, and to expand that commitment to other groups, including the elderly and poor. They also recommended the establishment of an epidemiological-dental database to be used for ongoing monitoring of dental health. Dental care, they continued, should be added to the basket of health care provided by the health funds. The Taub Center research found that 80% of the population regard the fees charged by dentists as "too high" and as the main (but not only) factor that prevents people from getting proper dental care. Maccabi Health Services voluntarily added dental care for the children of its members, but other health funds provide care only for payment. Only five percent of dental costs in Israel are covered by public sources, compared to 19% in Australia, 27% in Holland, 34% in France, 37% in Denmark, 62% in Germany, 78% in Japan and 100% in Luxembourg. The US figure, where dental care is almost totally private, is similar to that in Israel. In both countries, only some families have private insurance that covers part of the cost. The rate of dentists per 100,000 residents in Israel is - at 109 - among the highest in the world, compared to 48 in Holland, a European Union average of 61 and 84 in Denmark - thus there is no manpower problem. Asked to comment, the Health Ministry spokeswoman said it had long been in favor of including dental services in the basket, as this had "great importance." The problem preventing this was funding and providing such care would require the Treasury to make a "significance increase" in the ministry's budget. The ministry is continuing to act with this aim in mind," she said. Asked to comment, the Health Ministry spokeswoman said it has long been in favor of including dental services in the basket, as this has "great importance." The problem preventing this was funding and providing such care would require the Treasury to make a "significance increase" in the ministry's budget. The ministry is continuing to act with this aim in mind," she said.

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