Supreme Court to rule later on dentists’ appeal

Case centres around changes to dental treatment for medical card holders

The Supreme Court will rule later on an appeal by dentists over changes to dental treatment for medical card holders.

A five judge Supreme Court,  with Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, reserved judgment after hearing legal arguments on the dentists appeal against the High Court's rejection of their case.

In February 2011, Mr Justice Roderick Murphy found there was no breach of contract by the HSE in 2010 when it issued a circular introducing a new scheme which prioritised funding for treatment with a focus on pain relief, sepsis, and exceptional emergency situations.

Under the old scheme, dentists needed prior approval from the HSE for certain treatments, including providing dentures, while other procedures did not require such approval.


The Irish Dental Association (IDA) claimed the circular would lead to the break-up of its service to medical card holders.

Dentists Martin Reid, from Moville, Co Donegal, and James Turner, from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow had obtained a High Court injunction preventing the HSE implementing the scheme pending the full hearing of the proceedings.

Both dentists, members of the IDA,  participated in the Dental Treatment Service Scheme (DTSS), introduced in 1994 for medical card holders. In 1999, the IDA negotiated revised procedures over the DTSS which allowed health boards take whatever measures necessary to live within their budgets and statutory obligations, the High Court noted.

The 2010 Budget limited expenditure under the DTSS to €63 million and, as a result, the HSE issued the circular. The two dentists claimed that was a breach of their contract with the HSE.

The High Court found the circular, despite its limitation, was “patient oriented”.  It stated emergency care related to pain and sepsis must be provided and the new rules also provided additional care would be considered in exceptional cases, it noted.