Ireland ‘losing dentists’ over lack of specialist training
Dentists training to become specialists forced abroad, many never to return, says RCSI
‘The dental profession in Ireland is unable to assure patients that they are receiving the safe and contemporary standard of care they expect.’ Photograph: iStock
Ireland is losing dentists it has trained to other countries through a lack of dental specialist training here, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has warned.
Many dentists training to become dental specialists are forced to travel abroad to study because Ireland has no formal mechanism for State-sponsored training in the area, the RCSI’s dental faculty says.
“Many do not return, which means Ireland loses out on this talent, having provided State-funded undergraduate dental training,” says dean of faculty Dr John Marley.
The Irish Dental Council recognises only two specialist fields, orthodontics and oral surgery, according to Dr Marley. The UK, in contrast, recognises 13.
“Furthermore, unlike doctors, pharmacists, accountants and solicitors, Irish dentists are not required by law to undertake continuous professional development training.
“This means there is no formal mechanism for dentists to demonstrate to the public that they are maintaining their skills and knowledge and keeping up to date.”
The faculty will, on Wednesday at the Oireachtas health committee, urge the introduction of an intern year for all dentists, more specialist training and mandatory continuing professional development.
The deep end
At present, newly qualified dentists are “thrown into the deep end” and are permitted to go directly into dental practice, he says. A mandatory intern year for all new dentists is standard practice in UK dentistry and in the Irish medical profession.
Increased numbers of dental specialists are needed to staff advanced oral healthcare centres, proposed by the Government under a new national oral health policy, according to the faculty.
“Without the appropriate educational and training support, the dental profession in Ireland is unable to assure patients that they are receiving the safe and contemporary standard of care they expect.”
The Irish Dental Association, which is also appearing before the committee, has criticised the policy, announced in April, as seriously flawed, economically unviable and operationally unworkable.
The plan envisages a move from a “diagnose and treat” approach to a preventative one.
The Department of Health’s failure to consult meaningfully with oral health bodies risks, limiting the policy’s effectiveness, Mr Marley says.
Establishing advanced oral healthcare centres may be “premature” without an educational and training structure in place that can provide a future pipeline of skilled, specialist dentists.