Dentists warn over delays for medical card patients

Overuse of antiobiotics blamed on appointment delays

Delays are caused by cuts in preventive treatment  by which dentists are only allowed to fill two teeth a year

Delays are caused by cuts in preventive treatment by which dentists are only allowed to fill two teeth a year


Long delays in arranging oral surgery are forcing medical card patients to overuse antibiotics, according to the Irish Dental Association.

The association pointed out that while the HSE advises the public not to overuse antibiotics, its failure to clear waiting lists for oral surgery is forcing patients to take medicines for prolonged periods.

It called on the Department of Health to introduce maximum waiting times to safeguard the health of patients referred for specialist oral surgery.

Dr Ryan Hennessy, leader of the IDA general dental practitioners’ committee, said the delays were caused by cutbacks in preventive treatment under which dentists were only permitted to fill two teeth a year. Cutbacks in staffing and cutbacks in theatre time in hospitals are also blamed.

“We regularly advise our patients that taking an antibiotic is not an alternative to effective treatment of underlying oral health problems, and that repeated prescriptions are not a solution,” he said at the IDA annual conference in Kilkenny. “While antibiotics may improve the symptoms of dental issues, they do not remove the cause.”

“It is therefore alarming that due to HSE delays in arranging necessary treatment for patients, they must repeatedly take multiple prescriptions of antibiotics prescribed by their dentist or doctor to help control recurrent infections.”

The association says dental staffing provided by the HSE has fallen by 20 per cent over the last four years. It plans to raise the issue with Minister of State for Primary Care Alex White when he addresses the conference tomorrow.

A threefold increase in the number of people diagnosed with mouth cancer over the past five years is also due to be discussed at the conference. Mouth cancer is traditionally linked to alcohol consumption and smoking but in recent years, awareness has grown of oral sex as a risk factor.