Dentists ‘disadvantaged by lack of state support’

Irish Dental Association submission to Oireachtas committee highlights absence of funding and lays out a raft of recommendations for the future of dentistry

Dentists in Ireland are at a “significant disadvantage” to their colleagues in Northern Ireland, not to mention their counterparts in medical practice, according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

In its submission to the special Oireachtas committee set up to look at the Future of Healthcare, the association highlighted the total absence of state support for dental care. It said: “Dentists are one of the only health professionals that do not receive any financial support from the state. Dentists rely solely on their own self-generated funds to set up in practice and adhere to increasing regulatory costs.”

The submission highlighted that GMS doctors in general practice can receive up to €ı00,000 a year in grants, “before a penny is spent on caring for medical card patients”, to employ nurses, secretaries and practice managers. Pension payments are also available to medical doctors.

The IDA submission noted: “Massive state support is provided to dentists in Northern Ireland in the form of grants and pensions which leaves dentists in this state, particularly those close to the border, at a significant disadvantage. To reiterate, dentists in the Republic of Ireland do not receive a single cent toward the running of their practices.”

Elsewhere in its 24-page document, the association laid out what it sees as the essential priorities for the future of dentistry in Ireland. It highlights tackling what it calls “the crisis in orthodontics” where, in some areas, hundreds of patients have been waiting for more than four years for treatment. It also calls for the “urgent” publication of the new Dental Act, the delay of which is “a roadblock to achieving the highest standards of modern dentistry”.

Other recommendations include: proper funding for the new national oral health strategy, including a full-time chief dental officer; developing the role and expertise of dentists working in the community and primary care in the management and prevention of chronic disease; the reintroduction of properly funded and operated state dental schemes; the elimination of barriers between primary and secondary oral and dental healthcare; and resourcing and staffing a national model of publicly delivered dental care for children and patients with special care needs.