Teenagers awaiting orthodontic treatment up 12%
Numbers now above 17,600 but only children with greatest need provided with treatment
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher: “There are more than 2,500 children who have been waiting more than three years to be seen.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Tens of thousands of young people are missing out on corrective dental treatment as orthodontic waiting lists climb to record levels.
Some 11,163 children were waiting more than 12 months for orthodontic treatment at the end of the last year, a rise of 16 per cent since the beginning of the year.
Of these, 2,540 have been waiting more than three years, according to figures provided by Minister for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher. That’s a 22 per cent increase since the first quarter of 2014.
The overall list grew 12 per cent during the year, from 15,697 to 17,601.
Orthodontic treatment is provided by the HSE to children who have been assessed and referred before their 16th birthday. Only children with the greatest level of need are provided with treatment.
“What’s more worrying is the fact that there are more than 2,500 children who have been waiting more than three years to be seen.
“That means children who were 15 when they were first referred for treatment could be 18 before they have the required work carried out.”
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar had a responsibility to ensure patients, and especially children, were treated in a timely manner, he said.
“Minister Varadkar has been trying to dampen expectations by claiming that areas of the health service will get worse before they get better, but that’s cold comfort to the thousands of teenagers and their parents who are facing lengthy waits for important . . . treatment.”
In her response, Ms Lynch said the nature of orthodontic care meant immediate treatment was not always desirable. However, she added that in only 5 per cent of cases was it necessary to wait for further growth before treatment could commence.
To clear the list for those waiting longest – four years or more – private sector orthodontists are to treat certain categories of misalignment. This initiative is expected to start later in the year once a procurement process is completed, according to Ms Lynch.
In addition, orthodontic therapists are being used to treat some children in a pilot scheme currently under way in northeast Dublin.