Ministry eyes bold dental health target

Ministry eyes bold dental health target

The Ministry of Public Health plans to open one dental hospital in each of the 77 provinces to enable core access to oral healthcare, especially those living upcountry.

Speaking at a seminar, Dr Opas Kankawinpong, the ministry's permanent secretary, said the country does not have enough dentists to serve the population of 70 million people.

He said people should see a dentist twice a year. For those 70 million, it means people need access to dental services at least 140 million times per year.

"At present, the dental services can cater for only 10 million visits a year, about 7.1% of the 140 million visits needed to provide proper dental coverage.

"The ministry commits to taking care of people's health in all dimensions -- including their oral health. We need to increase the number of dentists and add more dental facilities so people have better access to treatment," he said.

He said the number of dentists employed at state-owned hospitals is about 6,000. On average, about 800 students graduate with a bachelor's degree in dentistry each year. But only a quarter of them end up working in the state-run sector.

"We aim to provide 100 million dental health sessions to people within 10 years. If we do not change anything, this goal will take 50 years, instead of 10," he said, adding that one solution is to have more dental hospitals.

He said the ministry will upgrade the dental health bureau in state-owned hospitals nationwide so they can be classed as dental hospitals.

By the end of this year, 39 hospitals will turn their dental health departments into dental hospitals, including Buddhachinaraj Hospital in Phitsanulok, Lam Luk Ka Hospital in Pathum Thani and Than To Hospital in Yala.

The ministry aims to have one dental hospital in every province by next year, he said.

The ministry will work with the Budget Bureau and the National Health Security Office on a budget for building dental hospitals nationwide. These hospitals will also provide career growth opportunities for dentists to run and manage specialised hospitals.

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