At a recent meeting with the Department of Health, the Association emphasised its support for an overhaul of the legislation regulating the practice of dentistry. Chief Executive, FINTAN HOURIHAN, reports.

The Department of Health is now meeting the major stakeholders before the heads of a new Dental Bill are prepared. The Association had already lodged a comprehensive submission on this issue. At our meeting, the nine-strong Association delegation emphasised its support for stronger safeguards for patients and the licensing of dental practices. The Association also stated its view that the inspection of dental practices should be carried out by the Dental Council.

The Association believes that the Dental Council should be composed of an equal number of dentists and non-dentists, while there should be a majority of dentists on fitness-to-practice committees. The IDA also believes that dentists should not be identified at fitness to practice hearings until, and unless, they are found to have committed sanctionable offences.

The notion of direct access for hygienists and therapists was discussed at great length. While dentists support expanding the scope of practice for hygienists, concern remains that there must be recognition of the fact that only qualified dentists are trained to provide the complete range of dental care and treatments. The role of dentists and their primary role in undertaking full dental examinations and prescribing xrays needs to be properly understood and protected in their interests of patients and promoting better oral health. The distinction between direct access within the dental practice and independent practice was strongly emphasised by the IDA. Direct access within the practice alongside the dentist could only be supported where there are clear obligations to ensure patients are regularly examined by dentists.

Extending the divisions of the specialist register to accommodate specialities recognised in common law jurisdictions such as the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand was also called for by the IDA.

This should not undermine the entitlement of general dental practitioners to provide aspects of care which are provided by specialists assuming they possess the necessary skills, expertise, and experience.

In addition, the IDA called for a repeal of the existing ban on incorporation of practices.

The Association called also for an appropriate definition of dentistry to be included in the new legislation given the dangers faced by nonqualified persons offering to take impressions, to provide tooth whitening and other treatments that are more appropriately provided by dentists. The dangers associated with clinics that arrange examinations in hotels and other non-clinical settings before arranging treatment (or, very often, over-treatment) overseas, was also mentioned.

In a similar vein, the Association called for strong safeguards to be introduced to regulate advertising. Mandatory CPD regulated by the Dental Council, was also strongly endorsed by the Association. A copy of the Association’s submission on the new dental legislation is available on request to IDA House.