Peter Gannon voices the Association’s disappointment at recent HSE announcements on dentistry.

It was disappointing to read the HSE service plan for 2015 announced in November. An IDA delegation met recently with Dr Varadkar, Minister for Health. We impressed on him the benefits of prevention and regular dental visits. We called for the reintroduction of the DTSS treatments, as promised by Fine Gael, and suggested that the scale and polish, for a small increase in spending, would benefit a very large group of patients. We also outlined the difficulty that HSE dentists had in coping with the huge numbers eligible for treatment and suggested that a return to better staff numbers is vital.
Unfortunately, our words appear to have fallen on deaf ears. The only increase in dental spending is €1 million towards reducing HSE orthodontic waiting lists. This is very disappointing, but not surprising, orthodontics being a favourite topic of our TDs.
It does not seem that this Government, or the Department of Health, have any strong commitment to oral health or see that it is a part of a person’s overall health. Our current DTSS contract is being ignored by the HSE when it suits them and the scheme is not providing adequate care for many eligible patients. The Public Dental Service is inadequately staffed and funded, and cannot meet its remit.
It is clear that change must come. As an association we need to explore the different options for dental services in the future: what the Public Dental Service and State dental schemes might provide in the way of treatment; which groups should be assisted; and, how this might be funded.
While other health professionals have become more dependent on State schemes in recent years, the opposite has become the case for dentists. We should, therefore, be able to look more critically, individually and as an organisation, at any future proposals for the provision of dental care. We need to make sure that we can maintain our high standards and continue to provide an excellent standard of care for all our patients, and that those with special needs or limited resources can rely on a dependable, easily accessible service.

Sensitive Dentist Awards
I would like to congratulate the many dentists who were nominated for these awards. It is always rewarding each year to read the patient testimonies highlighting the fine care and attention they have received. Media coverage of dentists often has a negative slant and it is important to hear the other side of the story. We know ourselves, and surveys confirm this, that our patients are very loyal and stay with us primarily because they trust us to provide the best and most appropriate treatment we can.

IDA mentoring scheme
The Irish Dental Association is setting up a mentoring scheme for members in all branches of the profession. Dentistry can sometimes be an isolated profession and often dentists are faced with problems that are not covered in their dental training. The goal of the proposed scheme will be to provide guidance and support to members, by putting them in touch with colleagues who will provide confidential guidance and support personally, or will direct them to an appropriate person who can provide the necessary advice. I would like to express my own thanks to the group of dentists who have volunteered to be mentors, and to give of their time and share their knowledge for the benefit of other dentists.

Oral Health Forum report
The Oral Health Forum brought together the key stakeholders working in the area of oral health in Ireland. The intention is to try to develop ideas and solutions for an oral healthcare system that is both good for the population and for those that work within it. It recently published its first report, which the IDA has circulated by email to members. We, as an organisation, need to remain involved and to make sure that our views are central to any future proposals.

IDA Practice Management Seminar
Finally, I would encourage as many dentists in private practice as possible, whether they are owners, partners or associates, to get along to our practice management seminar, which takes place in Croke Park on January 31. It really is important that we avail of the opportunity to hear experts who can help us to build and grow profitable practices while keeping patient interests to the fore. Too often, we get caught up in our busy working lives and neglect the need to consider the changing world outside our practice doors. I can’t commend highly enough the benefit of learning from the expert speakers but also from colleagues in what is a really valuable day out for IDA members.

Dr Peter Gannon