Public dental service in crisis

 

Sir, – Ireland’s oral health is on the edge of a precipice. Funding cuts to the Dental Treatment Services (medical card) Scheme (DTSS) and Dental Treatment Benefits (PRSI) Scheme (DTBS), coupled with staffing reductions in the public dental service, have left many patients with limited access to affordable routine and preventative care, thus widening health inequalities.

Covid-19 has further exacerbated these issues and pushed oral health and healthcare to crisis point, with many dentists resigning from the DTSS scheme, leaving an already under-resourced public dental service to manage an increasing demand for care.

A tsunami of unmet oral care needs is on the horizon that will see many of our most vulnerable citizens, including children, suffer.

It is time now for radical action to address these issues, including a new model of care that facilitates families to attend a dentist of their choice, establish a dental “home”, and enables general dental practitioners and the dental team to deliver a high-quality and appropriately remunerated service to their patients.

We need a model that promotes disease prevention from infancy and ensures universal access to publicly funded dental care for all children and those with additional healthcare needs.

We must have a properly resourced public dental service that supports family dentists and reduces oral health inequalities.

Many of these aspirations are outlined in the 2019 Government National Oral Health Policy – Smile agus Sláinte.

Politicians must ensure that oral healthcare is on the national agenda and ensure the policy does not sit gathering dust on the shelf.

In this time of the 74th World Health Assembly of the WHO, when the resolution to integrate oral health within the NCD (non-communicable diseases) and UHC (universal healthcare) agendas will be voted on, let’s see our politicians commit to better oral health care so no one is left behind. – Yours, etc,

Dr PAUL

LEAVY,

Enfield,

Co Kildare.