Government plan to give free dental care to under-16s ‘unrealistic’

Dentists to highlight ‘crisis’ in industry to patients and politicians in run up to election

Dentists have said that for the first time they will be using the general election campaign to highlight the “dental crisis” with both patients and political parties.

In particular they are expected to criticise plans by the outgoing Fine Gael-led Government to promise free dental care to all under-16s.

The Irish Dental Association said on Monday that more than 200,000 dental appointments took place across the country every week and that members needed to explain their concerns to patients.

“Where circumstances permit, a quick chat once treatment is finished would be an ideal opportunity to explain why the next government must take a new approach to oral health reforms.”


"Typically, half the adult population visit their dentist once per year in Ireland, which represents a great opportunity for dentists across the country to inform patients about the dental crisis we are facing and what we want to see from politicians," the chief executive of the association Fintan Hourihan said.

Mr Hourihan said the “unrealistic and unacceptable” national oral health policy would be a prime focus for dentists during the campaign, and that the association must be included in fresh negotiations on the proposed policy.

It said that in the run-up to the general election on Saturday, February 8th, it would canvass political parties for their stance on:

* A new deal for oral health with appropriate funding;

* Reversing Government cuts and increasing the provision of public service dentistry;

* A renewed focus on prevention;

* Better access for patients; and

* Increased capacity.

“We have seen that the number of children under 16 who are eligible to be treated in the public service has increased by 20 per cent in recent years while at the same time the number of dentists employed by the State has dropped by 30 per cent. We have also seen documentation confirming that soaring waiting lists of 24 to 30 months now exist for specialist treatments,” Mr Hourihan said.

“The new approach towards dental care is unrealistic and unacceptable, and must be reworked. It was introduced without any consultation with the IDA, and would worsen dental care for children, reduce benefits for medical card patients and offer nothing new for adults or pensioners.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent