The Irish Dental Association has published its Pre-Budget Submission, which highlights the massive cuts to the two State dental schemes since 2010, and sets out a list of 10 recommendations to resolve the difficulties created by these cuts, which have begun to reverse the significant advances in dental care made in earlier years. The submission also contains a number of recommendations designed to address the development of a coherent oral healthcare policy, and difficulties in running a dental business.

Recommendations

1. Reinstate preventive and restorative care under the Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme for PRSI payers and introduce a new voucher system for all eligible patients.

Cuts to this scheme are damaging to patient health, and are not cost-effective in the long term.

2. Reinstate preventive and restorative care in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme for Medical Card holders and introduce a new voucher system for all eligible patients.

The IDA is extremely concerned that preventive and restorative treatment has been removed from the Scheme; this has enormous public health implications for some of the most vulnerable in society.

3. Reinstate sufficient number of staff in all HSE areas to ensure patients of the HSE’s Public Dental Service and Orthodontic Service have access to equitable services irrespective of geographical location.

Since March 2009, the number of dentists working in the Public Dental Service has reduced by nearly 20%.

4. Engage with the IDA on the reconfiguration of the HSE’s Public Dental Service and Orthodontic Service to ensure any changes proposed fully reflect the best interests of the patient. We also make specific reference to the orthodontics crisis and propose a five-point plan to address these difficulties.

5. Introduce a National Oral Health Policy, which provides equitable access to a range of treatments required to achieve and maintain optimal oral health for all citizens.

6. Explore with the Irish Dental Association the potential participation of dentists in health promotion and chronic disease management.

Dentists in the community can play an important role in chronic disease management and the IDA urges the Government to explore this potential.

7. Divert a percentage of any taxes raised through consumption taxes on tobacco or high sugar/fat products towards an oral healthcare programme.

8. Appoint a full-time Chief Dental Officer to the Department of Health.

While the IDA welcomes the secondment of the HSE’s Oral Health Lead to this post on a part-time basis, the Association asks that the Government fulfill its pre-election commitment to make this a full-time post.

9. Reinstate the HSE Vocational Training Scheme in Dentistry.

This Scheme offered graduates an opportunity to practise under the guidance of experienced dentists, as well as providing the HSE with a cost-effective way of treating patients.

10. Introduce incentives to dentists similar to those provided to other healthcare professionals and address the cost of doing business in Ireland.

Dentists are one of the only health professionals that do not receive any financial support from the State.