Orthodontic treatment changes must be made

Patients must be made aware of changes to criteria

Changes to the eligibility criteria for health service-funded orthodontic treatment must be made clear to patients, the British Dental Association in Northern Ireland has warned.

The General Dental Services (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 will see the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need (IOTN) being used to decide which cases will be funded by the NHS.

Expected to take effect from July 2011, the new regulations will stipulate that health service orthodontic treatment will be restricted to patients who score 3.6 or more on the IOTN scale.

However, the BDA has indicated that a commonsense approach will be needed to adjudicate on borderline or exceptional cases with an IOTN lower than 3.6. Peter Crooks, Chairman of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, said: “The use of IOTN for assessing eligibility for health service orthodontic treatment represents a significant change for patients. Undoubtedly, some patients with an expectation of orthodontic care will be disappointed that they will not be eligible for treatment on the health service, so it’s vital that DHSSPS ensures patients understand what the index means for them. It’s also important that a commonsense approach to adjudicating on borderline cases is adopted.

“Savings made from restricting the provision of orthodontics must be reinvested back into primary dental services. With the costs associated with providing dental care rising dramatically, that investment is more important than ever in meeting the requirements of dental practice.”