Lack of dental care policy a national disgrace
Sir, – I wish to draw your readers’ attention to the disastrous state of publicly funded dentistry and how this has been addressed in the Sláintecare report published this week.
In 2016, medical card holders had 170,000 teeth extracted. Of these, children and young adults between the ages of 16 and 34 had 36,500 teeth extracted. During this same year, preventative dental treatment was provided to 1,600 patients in this age group. Dental services for medical card holders have been severely limited since 2010, and these shocking figures are the evidence of the permanent damage which has resulted.
Sláintecare proposes reinstating the dental services budget for medical card holders to 2009 levels. This will increase the budget by 25 per cent. However, the number of medical card holders has increased by 17 per cent during this time. Also, the fees for dental services provided to medical card holders have not been increased for 10 years, while the consumer price index has increased by 7 per cent and medical inflation by 40 per cent. There is no hope of reversing the worsening of dental health levels if this report is implemented.
In 2007, the then-minister for health Mary Harney announced the development of a national oral health policy, the first since 1994. This policy was completed in 2009 but never published or implemented.
In 2014 the Department of Health announced the development of another national oral health policy. Three years later we continue to wait for its publication. It stretches credulity to believe that it takes more than three years to develop an oral health policy for a population smaller than the city of Manchester. We continue to provide dental services to our children, our elderly and our most needy based on a policy set out 23 years ago, albeit with additional penal restrictions imposed in 2010.
This is a national scandal.
B Dent Sc,