I refer to the article “Long waits of a year or more for treatment at dental centre” (Straits Times, Mar 27). It states that “Demand for subsidised dental treatment is so much higher than dentists in the public sector can comfortably cope with, that patients could face waits of a year or more for treatment. This includes treatment for serious dental problems such as periodontitis or severe gum infection.
“Average waiting time for a first visit is two to 5½ months”
The centre, which has eight periodontists, gets 150 referrals a month for gum treatments. Dr Poon said the average waiting time for a first visit is two to 5½ months. An assessment is made and those who come in a diseased state are first stabilised, then therapy is carried out on subsequent visits, she explained.” Retiree Wilson Tan, 69, visited a dentist at Toa Payoh Polyclinic in February last year, when he was told he had periodontitis and needed specialist treatment. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissues and destroys the bone that supports teeth. If left untreated, it can cause tooth loss or, worse, an increased risk of heart attack or stroke and other serious health problems.
6-month wait, went for his first appointment
Mr Tan was referred to the NDCS and, after a six-month wait, went for his first appointment in August last year, where X-rays were taken but no treatment was carried out. He was to return in three months for treatment to start. But when he tried to make a follow-up appointment, he was told there was a long waiting list and he could not be given a date just yet. He has called and e-mailed the NDCS several times for an appointment, but has yet to get a date.
After 13 months – still no treatment date
It has been seven months since the X-ray and 13 months since his first visit to the polyclinic. An e-mail from the service quality section in November last year told him: “Most patients on this waiting list wait for about six to 10 months before treatment commences.” It added that, should his condition worsen, he should seek “a review appointment” and, in the meantime, arrange for routine six-monthly cleaning at a dental polyclinic or private general practitioner dental clinic before commencing his gum treatment at the NDCS. He had thought of going to a private dental specialist, but it is very expensive, he said. Non-surgical periodontal charges range from $300 to $600 per quadrant of the mouth, with treatment taking more than an hour per quadrant, he added. Dr Poon said the NDCS charges private patients $213 to $472, while heavily subsidised pioneers like Mr Tan pay $40 to $143.
Pioneers not covered for specialist periodontic treatment
Although the Ministry of Health provides subsidies for pioneers like Mr Tan to get treated at private dental clinics, these do not cover specialist periodontic treatment. Dr Ang said the claim amount for gum treatment is equivalent to scaling, which is $40 up to twice a year. Said Mr Tan: “I am angry. What is the point of giving pioneers cheap and good medical and dental care with such long waiting times?”
In 2001, visits to public sector dental clinics was 983,792.
Public dental attendances hardly grew in 14 years – population grew 1.5m? According to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) web site – Attendances at Public Sector Dental Clinics in 2015 was 996,800. So, why is it that the visits to public sector dental clinics have remained almost the same comparing 2015 to 2001, whilst the population grew by about 1.5 million during the same period? Public dental healthcare is practically non-existent? Is it any wonder that people say that public dental healthcare is practically non-existent in Singapore, as one may have to make an appointment which may be typically months in advance?
Chas subsidies – Orange card – No subsidy for 11 common procedures?
As to subsidies from the Community Health Assist and Pioneer Generation schemes for poorer patients – there is no subsidy for 11 (the most common) out of the 19 dental procedures for Chas orange card holders. What % of Chas are Orange? In this connection, what percentage of Chas cards are orange ones? About 40 per cent?
According to the article “One in two Singapore kids has rotten teeth: Report” (Straits Times, May 15, 2014) – More than half and more children with rotten teeth? “More than half of all children in Singapore have one or more rotten teeth by the time they start primary school. A report on the oral health of schoolchildren found that the proportion of children with dental caries at the age of seven had gone up from 47.6 per cent in 2003, to 50.6 per cent last year.”
Public fees much higher than private clinics?
According to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) web site’s Average Fee for Dental Procedures – 6 out of the 8 dental procedures listed show that the fees at public institutions are substantially higher than private dental clinics. For example, for:
Crowns (Capping) – Single Unit*
Public Institutions $650 – $786
Private Dental Clinics $400 – $2,140
Full Dentures – Per Arch*
Public Institutions $521 – $707
Private Dental Clinics $150 – $2,140
Impacted Wisdom Tooth Surgery
Impacted Wisdom Tooth Surgery – Per Tooth
Public Institutions $600 – $825
Private Dental Clinics $400 – $2,140
Implants – Per Unit
Public Institutions $1,600 – $1,944
Private Dental Clinics $2,000 – $4,815
Orthodontics (Braces) – Two Jaws, Non-Surgical
Public Institutions $3,000 – $4,870
Private Dental Clinics $2,000 – $10,700
Root Canal Treatment – Anterior Tooth
Root Canal Treatment (Anterior Tooth) – Per Tooth*
Public Institutions $272 – $353
Private Dental Clinics $400 – $856
Root Canal Treatment – Molar Tooth
Root Canal Treatment (Molar Tooth) – Per Tooth*
Public Institutions $678 – $815
Private Dental Clinics $400 – $1,605
Root Canal Treatment – Pre-molar Tooth
Root Canal Treatment (Pre-molar Tooth) – Per Tooth*
Public Institutions $424 – $501
Private Dental Clinics $400 – $1,284
How is it possible that the cost of dental treatment at a public dental institution can be more than 50% (as much as 247 per cent for Full Dentures – Per Arch) of that charged by private dental clinics?Uniquely Singapore! Are there any countries that have this strange phenomena?
Leong Sze Hian