BY: Lee Hui Chieh
A SIX-YEAR-OLD boy had to be put under general anaesthesia to have the nerves in five decayed teeth removed, and another tooth extracted.
Another pre-schooler's teeth were so badly decayed that all 20 had to be pulled out, also under general anaesthesia.
While these tots suffered great pain, their parents' wallets would also have felt the pinch, with dental bills running possibly at between $2,000 and $4,000 for each case.
These tales of needless suffering, told by dentists at yesterday's launch of this year's Oral Health Month, have spurred the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to pump in an extra $300,000 to promote pre-school dental health next year.
Parents will be encouraged - through public forums and brochures made widely available - to take their toddlers for a first visit to the dentist before their second birthday, and at least once a year subsequently.
The HPB will also ask doctors to look out for dental problems in toddlers and pre-schoolers and to refer them to dentists.
Revealing these plans yesterday, the Health Ministry's chief dental officer, Associate Professor Patrick Tseng, said more should done for pre-schoolers.
He cited a 2003 survey which showed that one in five six-year-olds had at least four decayed, missing or filled teeth among their 20 baby teeth.
Dr Lewis Lee, president of the Singapore Dental Association (SDA), said: 'Contrary to popular belief, a child's baby teeth are as important as his permanent set.'
Losing them too early can dent a child's self-confidence and compromise his speech development and chewing. The permanent teeth may also grow out crooked and distort the facial features, he said.
Prof Tseng added that regular dental checks are cheaper than treating the complications resulting from problems that go undiagnosed until it is too late.
Mrs David Tan and her six-year-old daughter learnt this the hard way.
When the candy-loving girl complained of a toothache two months ago, Mrs Tan, 39, a manager, took her to a dentist and found out that she needed two teeth filled and the nerves removed from two others.
Mrs Tan, who has since cut the girl's consumption of sweets and supervises her tooth-brushing, said: 'We always thought, 'Milk teeth only, never mind'. We did not know the problems could be so severe. I felt guilty.'
A series of roadshows during this year's Oral Health Month will include games and exhibits on dental care targeted at pre-schoolers.
Free dental checks will be given to adults and children at the roadshows and at 253 participating dental clinics next month.
Over the next four weekends, starting this Friday, the roadshows will be held from 10.30am to 8.30pm, first at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh, followed by Ang Mo Kio Hub, Compass Point in Sengkang and Causeway Point in Woodlands.
For more details, visit www.colgate.com.sg/app/Colgate/SG/Corp/OralHealthMonth2008/Clinics.cvsp