Spain to offer free dental care to children 

The Spanish government is set to approve a measure which will offer children aged 0 to 14 and other population groups free preventative dental care through the country’s public healthcare system. 

spain free dentist public health
Around 7 million people in Spain, mostly children aged 0 to 14, will soon be able to receive free dental check-ups through the country's public health system. (Photo by JAY DIRECTO / AFP)

The Spanish cabinet on Tuesday looks set to allocate €44 million to its new Oral Health Plan, which aims to give free dental care to young children, pregnant women, people with mental disabilities or upper limb physical disabilities as well as people with head and neck cancers.

Although Spain’s public health system is regarded as one of the best in the world, it generally does not cover dental treatment, meaning most Spaniards have to pay a private dentist to get a check-up or receive any dental treatment. 

Some regions offer more than others. For example, when it comes to young children, Madrid covers the cost of fillings in 6 to 15 year olds, Andalusia pays for check-ups for children aged 6 to 15, and Catalonia and the Valencia region both offer free preventative treatment to those aged 0 to 14.

What Spain’s new Oral Health Plan would do is “homogenise” this public dental cover for children and other population groups deemed vulnerable across all of the country’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities. 

But according to Health Minister Carolina Darias, children aged 0 to 14 will be the primary beneficiaries of this legislation, as they number above 6.5 million in Spain and the plans include regular check-ups, cavity analysis, minor interventions and more.

The future measure, which will still require parliamentary approval in the coming weeks before it can come into force, will also prevent the introduction of more co-payments for non-urgent medical transport or therapeutic dietary and ortho-prosthetic products.

It will not cover the cost of cosmetic treatment such as braces or teeth whitening.

Pregnant women have been included in the plan given that bleeding increases during pregnancy due to heightened circulation, as well as the fact that calcium levels decrease. 

The overall focus of the legislation is on preventative dental care as in the words of the health minister “most” diseases related to oral health, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer or obesity “can be prevented and treated in the early stages”.

The draft law also includes a clause stating that these free healthcare schemes cannot be managed by private companies, as is currently the case.

The €44 million in free dental care funds will be taken from the €70 billion allocated by the EU as part of the bloc’s post-pandemic recovery plans.

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More than half a million children in Spain have no access to a paediatrician

More than half a million children in Spain, half of them in Madrid, do not have access to a specialised paediatrician, a new report has revealed.

More than half a million children in Spain have no access to a paediatrician

It used to be typical that children had one doctor assigned to them, but now due to the lack of appointments, parents complain that each time they try and take their kids to clinics, they’re having to meet someone new or having to go to the emergency room at the hospital instead.

The Spanish Association of Paediatric Primary Care (AEPap) has published a report, which estimates that more than 523,000 children in Spain under 15 years of age don’t have an assigned paediatrician, in fact, they don’t even have a family doctor.

READ ALSO: Spain’s La Rioja region approves groundbreaking mental health law 

The figure is worse in Madrid, where almost one in three children do not have a paediatrician. There are 281,544, kids without an assigned doctor in Madrid, more than half of the total, according to AEPap calculations.  

The next region with the second greatest deficit of doctors specialised in children is Catalonia, where 96,438 minors are left without one. It’s a similar story in Asturias where 8.6 percent of children don’t have access to a family doctor.  

Navarre and Galicia come in fourth and fifth place, where 6.1 and 3.8 percent of children respectively, don’t have access to a specialist.  

The regions that are the easiest for children to be able to see a paediatrician are Castilla y León where only 0.6 percent are left without one and Cantabria where only 0.7 percent don’t have one.

READ ALSO: Why people in Spain are facing longer waits to see a doctor 

Having to see a new doctor on each subsequent visit or having to simply go to the emergency room is causing problems for children as their medical history is having to be explained each time and doctors are not familiar with the cases.

Dr. Rosa Añel, an expert in patient safety, published an article in September in which she said: “new studies show that personalised and sustained care over time by the same professional is a matter of life or death. Care throughout life by the same professional creates a relationship of trust, mutual understanding and commitment, which favors more humane and safe care”.

According to health professionals in Madrid, in recent years there has been a significant number of paediatricians leaving to go the provinces of Toledo and Guadalajara in Castilla-La Mancha, looking for better hours and conditions. Many of these young doctors have left to be able to spend time with their own children in the afternoons. 

Castilla-La Mancha is one of the better regions for these specialists with only 2.6 percent of children without assigned medical personnel.

President of the AEPap, Concepción Sánchez, explains that “When the paediatrician is there, the child knows that they are not going to hurt them, that they are going to treat them well, and they do not suffer”.  

This goes beyond knowing or not knowing the name of your doctor she continues. “When there is a follow-up, the paediatrician knows the biological, psychological and social environment of the family. They get to know the grandparents, the parents, what problems they have, if they are separating, if there is any important intra-family problem, etc. That benefits the way they look at the child”, she says.  

For example, a child who is a victim of bullying or who has problems at home might go to the doctor with stomach aches, but if the doctor doesn’t know the child’s situation, they might not be able to get to the root cause of the problem.