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SPEECH BY MR MASAGOS ZULKIFLI, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT & SECOND MINISTER FOR HEALTH, AT THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY CENTRE FOR ORAL HEALTH, SINGAPORE’S FIFTH ANNIVERSARY GALA DINNER ON 5 JULY 2024, 7.30PM, AT CONRAD CENTENNIAL SINGAPORE

Associate Professor Patrick Tseng, Executive Director, National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore
My former parliamentary colleague, Mr Khaw Boon Wan
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good evening. I am pleased to join you at the fifth anniversary celebration of the National University Centre for Oral Health, Singapore (NUCOHS).
2. According to the World Health Organization’s report on Global Oral Health Status published in 2022, nearly half of the world’s population suffers from some form of oral condition. This is indeed a worrying finding.
3. Good oral health plays a pivotal role in controlling and reducing the risk of general health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It is therefore imperative that each one of us take charge of our oral health, especially given that oral conditions are largely treatable and preventable.
4. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has implemented policies to ensure appropriate oral healthcare is affordable and accessible to all Singaporeans. Government subsidies for dental services are available at public healthcare institutions, including polyclinics, national specialty centres, hospital dental clinics and School Dental Services. The Government also subsidises dental services at private clinics through the Community Health Assist Scheme or CHAS, and the Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation packages for older Singaporeans. 
5. To increase access to oral healthcare, more polyclinics, hospital dental clinics, and a second national specialty dental centre, NUCOHS, have been established in recent years. The National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS) will move into a new building in the coming years. Together, they cater to the diverse dental needs of the population across all stages of life and care settings.
6. There is a need for a multipronged approach to enhance oral health outcomes, especially in a rapidly ageing population. MOH has embarked on a reform of our oral health strategy to nurture an ecosystem that focuses on preventive care, timely intervention, and preservation of oral health across all stages of life. 
7. We must ensure that Singaporeans have the necessary knowledge and tools to look after and maintain their oral health beyond the hospital setting. It is equally important that oral health professionals are equipped to meet the population’s needs, in tandem with MOH’s efforts to enhance accessible care in the community.
8. Against this backdrop, NUCOHS plays an important role. As an integrated oral health centre in Singapore, NUCOHS is uniquely positioned to serve the population’s needs, train the next generation of oral health professionals, and bolster innovation and research capabilities for better patient outcomes. 
9. Over the past five years, NUCOHS has served over 100,000 patients at its facilities, providing advanced oral health care for complex cases such as head and neck cancer and reconstructive surgery. 
10. Furthermore, the institution has responded to the call to support the elderly population with the opening of the first satellite clinic at Alexandra Hospital last April. The clinic sees all eligible adults above the age of 65 with complex medical conditions, including physical and neurocognitive conditions. To date, the clinic has seen over 3,000 patients. 
11. Beyond the hospital setting, SingHealth’s NDCS has established community partnerships and developed a primary care network with general dental practitioners (GDPs) since 2017. NUCOHS joined this effort in January this year under the NUCOHS – GDP programme, and has been actively engaging GDPs in the region to participate in this new network. This programme facilitates a more seamless transition from the hospital to the primary care setting, enabling patients to visit their GDP for their general oral health needs and follow-up dental treatment at their convenience. I encourage more GDPs to onboard the network. 
12. To ensure that Singaporeans receive quality healthcare, we need to train an adequate number of healthcare professionals. NUCOHS has collaborated extensively to nurture the next generation of oral health professionals, through partnerships with tertiary institutions such as the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Polytechnic. For example, students enrolled in the Diploma in Oral Health Therapy at Nanyang Polytechnic receive their clinical training at NUCOHS, and about half of its graduates are presently working as oral health therapists in public healthcare institutions. 
13. Advancements in technology have made visits to the dentist safer and more comfortable. The evolving landscape of digital dentistry has brought about significant benefits. In its short history, NUCOHS has made strides in innovation and research with its Smile AI Project to improve the efficiency and accuracy of identifying, treating, and preventing dental conditions. As we shift towards preventive dentistry, and with the substantial support this year, the project is expected to grow by leaps and bounds. I look forward to more new developments from NUCOHS in the years to come. 
14. In closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to NUCOHS on reaching this significant milestone. I look forward to the institution’s continued exceptional care for Singaporeans. 
15. I wish you all a delightful evening. Thank you.

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