Ireland worst in EU for dental exam attendance

Patients cite cost is a major reason why they don’t go to appointments

Irish adults are ranked bottom of a list of seven major European nations for attending routine dental examinations according to a recent study.

The Perceptions of Dental Health Ipsos study interviewed 3,500 people across seven EU countries, including 500 in Ireland. As well as the lowest number of adults attending for a routine examination, Ireland also had the highest number of patients citing cost as a factor preventing attendance at the dentist.

The findings of the study align with new figures from the Irish Dental Association (IDA), which show that 75 per cent of people who are entitled to a free dental examination do not take advantage of the service. The IDA said cutbacks to the two main dental health schemes and ongoing confusion over people’s entitlements have led to an alarming deterioration in the dental health of the population. It said the HSE’s failure to explain to people what their entitlements were, amounted to a dereliction of duty.

Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the IDA, told the association’s annual conference in Galway that the short-sightedness of withdrawing several modest benefits from three million patients was already becoming apparent.

He said: “These simple preventive treatments were key to maintaining good dental health for the general population. In their absence, dentists are seeing a huge increase in dental decay and gum disease. Other problems which may be caused or made worse by poor dental health include heart disease, strokes, diabetes, premature and low birth weight babies and respiratory disease.

“By slashing the PRSI and Medical Card schemes, by halving tax reliefs for orthodontic and other dental treatments and by reducing the number of dentists and nurses in the public service by 20 per cent over the past two years – leading to longer and longer waiting lists – this Government and its predecessor has created a dental health time bomb, which will have huge repercussions for the population as a whole in coming years.”