Twelve years after National Health Insurance was supposed to - but failed - to include dental care for children in the basket of health services, Maccabi Health Services has launched free dental treatment for members up to the age of six. The service, which will be permanent and not a one-time offer, will cost the country's second-largest health fund NIS 10 million a year if all its members of that age take advantage of it. It is available starting January 1 at Maccabi's 44 dental clinics around the country. Maccabi director-general Prof. Yehoshua Shemer said Sunday that according to a recent study the health fund carried out, more than a quarter of parents do not get their families' dental problems treated because they can't afford it. Maccabident, the for-profit dental arm of the health fund, said the average annual cost of dental care for a two-year-old was NIS 65, while that of a child of six was NIS 423 per year. Studies show that prevention, including a dental examination and teaching parents and children how to take care of teeth, such as proper brushing and what food to avoid, can significantly reduce the need for dental treatment later and reduce costs. It is important to bring children to the dentist for the first time at age two or even younger rather than to wait until all their milk teeth are in place. In England, 75 percent of children up to the age of four and 87% age five visit their dentist at least once a year, while the corresponding rates of Israeli children are much lower. Maccabident said that giving free care to children up to the age of six would greatly increase the demand for visits to the dentist and improve the dental hygiene of young members.