Dental Care Policy

Oral Health Is Closely Linked With Overall Health

Dental health and general health cannot be separated. Oral diseases are among the most common noncommunicable diseases, affecting over 3.5 billion people. Worldwide, tooth decay in permanent teeth affects over 2.3 billion people and in milk teeth affects over 530 million children. Severe gum disease affects around 10% of the world, and milder forms of gum disease affect almost half of the population.

A person with a healthy mouth is comfortable, able to eat the foods that they choose and is less likely to have other disease including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. We know that our self-esteem, dignity and appearance are all linked to a healthy mouth. If you have any of these conditions, then reducing any disease in your mouth could help you be healthier in general.

World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

For most people, access to dental care in Ireland is not straightforward. A number of barriers exist, not limited to, but including:

  • Financial
  • Bureaucratic
  • Phobia
  • Geographic

Dental care here is delivered in three main ways

1. Hospital Dental Service

Dublin and Cork Dental Hospitals. Patients may be seen either by supervised student or by consultants. The care may carry a charge or may be provided free if the person has a medical card for the areas that hospital accepts.

Oral Surgery Units at General Hospitals might care for patients who need difficult wisdom teeth removed or orthodontic surgery.

The waiting lists can be long. In most cases, people are referred to the hospital once they have seen a dentist in practice.

2. HSE Dental Clinics at Primary Care Centres

Mainly see children under 16 and possibly care for vulnerable adults

The service is free but there is a need for more access. Children are seen either through;

The Emergency Clinics, or the School Screening Service in 2nd, possibly 4th, and 6th class in certain areas. The waiting lists can be long.

3. Private Dental Practice

These are independent small businesses or corporate businesses that do not receive financial support or PPE from the government. They employ or contract an estimated 10,000 people as receptionists, dental nurses, practice managers and dentists, hygienists and clinical technicians.

The forms of payment for the treatment are:

  • Dental Treatment Services Scheme. The HSE contract care for people who have Medical Cards and are over 16 years old, to self-employed dentists.
  • Treatment Benefits Scheme. Dentists are able to claim for an annual exam and cleaning if the patient has enough PRSI credits and is over 18 years old.
  • Private payments that may be paid in full by the patient or supplemented by some types of health insurance.

The waiting lists are often short as there are lots more dental practices than either dental hospitals or HSE dental clinics. Not all dentists sign up with the Dental Treatment Services Scheme or the Treatment Benefits Scheme for a variety of reasons. The fees that the dentists receive will likely not cover the cost of the highest level of PPE and allow for the business to continue to be sustainable.