Private dentists to take over most dental care for children

‘Packages of care’ to replace existing school-based services at primary level

At present, about 84,000 children are waiting for a public dental assessment. Almost 20,000 children are on the orthodontic waiting list, including almost 8,000 who have been waiting for over two years. File photograph: Getty

At present, about 84,000 children are waiting for a public dental assessment. Almost 20,000 children are on the orthodontic waiting list, including almost 8,000 who have been waiting for over two years. File photograph: Getty

 

Most dental care for children will pass from Health Service Executive public services to private, local dentists under a new oral health policy to be published by Minister for Health Simon Harris on Wednesday.

The plan provides for “packages of care” for children from birth to the age of 16 to be delivered by local dental practices, replacing the existing school-based services at primary level.

Preventive “packages of care” will also be introduced for eligible adults at different intervals during their lifetimes.

The Government plans to roll out the plan for free dental care from 2020, for children under the age of six, Mr Harris will announce on Wednesday. The packages will include examinations, preventive advice, referrals, prescriptions, fillings, extractions, assessments, orthodontics and oral surgery.

This is the first time in 25 years that the policy on the provision of dental service in the State is being comprehensively updated. The Department of Health has been working on the policy for five years.

Consultation

However, dentists, and dental training schools, have complained about a lack of meaningful consultation in the development of the policy.

At present, about 84,000 children are waiting for a public dental assessment. Almost 20,000 children are on the orthodontic waiting list, including almost 8,000 who have been waiting for over two years.

Complaints about the standard of orthodontic work on children have been under investigation for almost 20 years without resolution, The Irish Times revealed earlier this week. File photograph: John Giles/PA Wire
Complaints about the standard of orthodontic work on children have been under investigation for almost 20 years without resolution, The Irish Times revealed earlier this week. File photograph: John Giles/PA Wire

Complaints about the standard of orthodontic work on children have been under investigation for almost 20 years without resolution, The Irish Times revealed earlier this week, and 7,500 patient files are currently under review.

No changes are planned under the policy to the current system of providing dental care for eligible adults through the dentist of their choice.

The policy will include a focus on facilitating access to primary care services, improving oral health for vulnerable groups and preventive measures.

The HSE’s public dental service, to be renamed as community oral healthcare services, will focus primarily on planning, and on providing care for vulnerable groups.

Dental hospitals and other centres will be designated as oral healthcare hospitals and undergraduate dental education will be reviewed.