Legislative Council Panel on Health Services 10 May 1999

Follow-up of issues relating to dental services:
Dental policy and review of oral health goals


This paper follows up the issues relating to dental services as raised by the Legislative Council Panel on Health Services at its meeting in January 1999. It covers the following issues :-

  1. Government dental policy

  2. Oral health goals and surveillance

  3. Deployment of more ancillary dental personnel (ADP) in the Department of Health (DH)

Government dental policy

2. The Government's overall policy objective in relation to oral health services is to improve the oral health of the population by promoting oral hygiene and oral health awareness in the community and facilitating the proper use of oral care services. Curative dental services are confined to emergency treatment, treatment for patients in public hospitals and dental care for prisoners and patients with special needs. General curative dental services to the public are to be provided by the private sector.

3. Under this policy, public resources are invested in promotional and preventive services such as school dental care services and oral health education. The former provides basic dental care for primary school students which includes regular dental examinations, oral health education and oral hygiene instruction, preventive therapy, fillings, prophylaxis and extractions as required. The latter provides oral health education to all sectors of the community through various targeted initiatives for all age groups.

4. The Government believes the existing dental policy, which focuses on promotional and preventive services, provides a cost-effective and sustainable mechanism to improve the oral health standard of the public.


5. The Dental Sub-committee (DSC) of the Health and Medical Development Advisory Committee has set up a Working Group on Revision of Oral Health Goals. A report has been submitted by the Working Group to the DSC.

6. Among the recommendations, DSC has endorsed the proposal of establishing a co-ordination framework, setting out a clear division of responsibility among DH, the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong, and the dental profession in oral health surveillance. For this purpose, a Liaison Group on Oral Health Surveillance in Hong Kong has now been formed. The Group is headed by DH, and its membership comprises representatives from the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong, the dental association/private sector and DH. The Group is tasked with the responsibility of co-ordinating and mapping out the essential oral health surveillance activities on a regular basis, the timetable for such activities, means of keeping, classifying and sharing of information and establishing a central database for access by interested parties.

7. The Liaison Group will hold its first meeting later this month. The meeting will discuss and cover the following issues :-

  1. the Liaison Group's terms of reference; and

  2. synchronising and mapping out the oral health surveillance activities in the next 10 to 20 years.

8. It is important to establish the Liaison Group to co-ordinate the work in respect of oral health surveillance and related matters because the results of the surveillance will enable the following to be carried out :-

  1. monitoring the trends of dental caries (tooth decay) and periodontal diseases (gum diseases);

  2. providing data for formulation and revision of oral health goals;

  3. monitoring of oral health status against pre-set oral health goals;

  4. planning and evaluation of oral health care programmes; and

  5. facilitating the planning of the effective use of resources to meet the oral health goals.

Oral health goals

9. The DSC recognises that it is important that well-coordinated and targeted surveillance should first be conducted to obtain valid and reliable data before such can be made use of for drafting the relevant oral health goals. We shall examine the appropriateness of the existing oral health goals when up-to-date information is available.

Deployment of more ADP in DH

10. Separately, the Director of Audit has recommended that DH should enhance the deployment of appropriate ADP to provide different dental services in order to ensure a more cost-effective use of manpower resources. This will be followed up by DH in the future deployment of staff, that is, savings from natural wastage of various grades of staff within the dental service would be used for the recruitment of the required ADP based on service needs. DH will thus deploy appropriate ADP to provide different dental services by the government dental clinics and the Oral Health Education Unit.


Health and Welfare Bureau
May 1999