€400m worth of support removed

Irish Dental Association criticises successive governments for precipitating an ‘oral health crisis’

Since 2010, successive governments have removed €400 million in dental supports from the general public according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

The association’s chief executive Fintan Hourihan (pictured) told dentists at a seminar in Mullingar that the cuts in tax relief, the PRSI and medical card schemes amounted to €100m per annum. He said: “The previous government introduced the cuts while the current government has sat on its hands and reneged on the promises it made to revise them. The end result is that €400m of dental supports have been taken from the Irish people and, as a consequence, the dental health of the nation is reaching crisis proportions.

“It’s essential that the HSE prioritises dental health and addresses the many shortcomings which exist in the system in its new service plan which has to be completed in the next three weeks.”

Mr Hourihan also revealed that research commissioned by the IDA has found that one in four people (23 per cent) are now attending the dentist less often. This means that as many as 760,000 adults and 370,000 medical card holders are not attending their dentist as often as they should be.

He continued: “We asked the government to honour their promises by making a start in Budget 2014 to ensuring a gradual restoration of care and benefits under the two State-funded schemes. In particular we highlighted the value of a voucher type system which would promote awareness of entitlements and attendance at the dentist.

“Equally, we have a situation where dentists working in the public service and caring for children and special needs patients have seen staffing levels slashed, falling by almost 20 per cent (net) between March 2009 and the end of 2012. This has caused an inevitable reduction in school screening programmes and means that a limited emergency only service is provided in many parts of the country.

“We are also seeing unacceptable waiting lists emerge for special needs patients, among the most vulnerable patients our members care for. There must be recognition that extra dental staff are required urgently and this should be prioritised alongside the appointment of extra doctors, teachers and guards announced by Minister Howlin.

“The government cannot say they have not been warned about the oral health crisis which is unfolding in front of us. They have been warned repeatedly and still they refuse to act.”