SINGAPORE - Dental care does not feature strongly in the blueprint setting out Singapore's national preventive care strategy that was released recently, but preventive oral and dental care is absolutely important, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday.

"Actually for dental care, you are ahead on physical care, which is why you are not featured strongly in Healthier SG," he told a gathering of dentists.

"For whatever reasons, preventive care for dental health as well as health seeking habits have been much stronger," he added. 

Mr Ong was speaking at the International Dental Exhibition and Meeting (Idem) at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, where he laid out how the dental fraternity fits into the grand scheme of the Healthier SG initiative that seeks to reform Singapore's healthcare system to focus on preventive care.

Although the initiative seems primarily geared towards general practitioners, he stressed that preventive care in all aspects, including dental and oral care, is important, even if it is not a prominent part of the White Paper endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday.

"As you grow up, many more people living in Singapore have the habit of visiting a dentist from time to time, just to check out our dental health and clean our teeth, whereas we do not do that with our GPs to do our health screening," said Mr Ong.

Instead of focusing on dental health then, the Government would prioritise more urgent matters, with chronic illnesses being the most pressing at the moment.

During his speech, he also urged healthcare practitioners to use the National Electronic Health Record system, which would centralise patient data for different healthcare service providers to access.

"A patient can have a very good relationship with their doctor, and all the information is captured in the steel cabinet of the doctor. But one day, if the patient needs to see another doctor, say at the A&E department, and if the other system has zero information, it does not serve the patient well," he said.

The Government will be providing grants to facilitate the transition, which he described as a worthwhile endeavour to elevate Singapore's healthcare system further.

His remarks came as Idem makes a comeback after a four-year hiatus.

The biennial trade fair and conference will take place until Sunday.

This year's iteration - the 12th so far - will see about 5,000 attendees from 60 countries, with 540 brands showcasing their latest products and innovations.

The return of the event, jointly organised by the Singapore Dental Association and event management firm Koelnmesse, was noted by Mr Ong as an opportunity for Singapore to restart its meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry.

Mr Poh Chi Chuan, Singapore Tourism Board's executive director for exhibitions and conferences, said he looks forward to the international dental community exchanging ideas and technologies here.

"The return of major business events such as Idem is testament to the enduring confidence in Singapore by event organisers and businesses," he added.

Around 25 Mice events took place recently, all timed around the Formula One race here which took place from Sept 30 to Oct 2.

This roughly matched the number logged before the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 90,000 delegates in attendance.

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