Dentists blame medical card for rise in tooth extractions
Survey finds 97% of dentists lack confidence in Dental Treatment Services Scheme
Three out of four dentists who completed the survey said they would like to leave the scheme within five years. Photograph: Frank Miller
There has been a stark rise in the number of tooth extractions over the past decade due to the structure of the medical card scheme, the Irish Dental Association has warned.
A survey published on Tuesday said the overwhelming majority of dentists have no confidence in the scheme and are dissatisfied with the level of care they are allowed to provide under it.
“The medical card scheme continues to place a limit on fillings while allowing an unlimited number of extractions,” said Irish Dental Association chief executive Fintan Hourihan.
“This has led to a 41 per cent increase in the number of surgical extractions and a 12 per cent rise in routine extractions.”
According to the survey, 90 per cent of dentists are dissatisfied with the level of care they can provide under the scheme while an even higher number – 96 per cent – say the scheme prevents them from providing the same standard of care as private patients.
It was 'shocking' that 38 per cent of the dentists in the survey say they have been refused approval to provide treatment for exceptional or high-risk patients due to lack of funding
The survey also finds 97 per cent of dentists lack confidence in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), the scheme under which medical card holders receive treatment free of charge.
Three out of four of the 440 dentists who completed the survey said they would like to leave the scheme within the next five years.
Mr Hourihan said the number of patients eligible for dental care had risen to 1,340,412 – an increase of almost 24 per cent since 2010. “Despite that increase, the number of treatments funded by the HSE has fallen by 24 per cent,” he said.
Mr Hourihan said it was “shocking” that 38 per cent of the dentists in the survey say they have been refused approval to provide treatment for exceptional or high-risk patients due to lack of funding.
“Research shows that there was a 38 per cent increase in the number of patients admitted to hospital with severe infections in 2011 and 2012 following the introduction of cuts,” he said.
“We are calling on the Minister for Health to resume contract talks as a matter of urgency and to extend to dentists the same terms and conditions which have been offered to public servants and other health professionals who have seen FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) pay cuts reversed in full.”