Government urged to act to avoid further crisis

IDA calls for action to deal with ‘intolerable burden’ on Public Dental Service caused by health scheme cutbacks

The Irish Dental Association has written to the Taoiseach and other government ministers urging an urgent cross-departmental approach to dealing with what it describes as an “oral health crisis”.

The association has said that the recent report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) only serves to underline the dire need for an emergency plan to counter the impact of state cuts to dental schemes.

The report by the CSO showed that the number of dental treatments provided to medical card patients fell by 16 per cent in the years 2013 to 2016, even though the number of eligible patients increased between 2009 and 20ı6. The IDA has also expressed concern that the number of extractions, fillings and dentures provided “significantly outnumber” preventive treatments.

In 2009, after the global financial crisis, entitlements under the PRSI Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme were cut back significantly. Subsidised gum cleaning, fillings, extractions, root canal treatments, X-rays and denture work were dropped and workers were only eligible for a free examination.

A year later the Dental Treatment Services Scheme medical card was also scaled back and entitlements to cleaning, gum cleaning and X-rays were suspended, root canal treatment could only be performed on an emergency basis and only on front teeth, denture work was only allowed on an emergency basis and people could only have two fillings per year. However, unlimited extractions could still be performed.

A spokesman for the IDA said: “Separately, we know that, while the under 16 population has increased by 20 per cent over the past decade to 1.1 million, the number of dentists in the Public Dental Service charged with looking after their oral health has dropped by 20 per cent due to recruitment restrictions. Staff shortages, clinic closures and a lack of policy and direction by the HSE are putting an intolerable burden on the Public Dental Service and are undermining its ability to provide an effective service.”

Published: 22 August, 2017 at 10:52