3 out of 4 people here do not avail of free check ups
European study of 7 countries shows Irish adults worst for attending routine dental examinations
Dentists say new voucher system would be cost effective way of arresting decline in dental health
New figures from the Irish Dental Association show that 75% of people who are entitled to a free dental examination do not avail of the service.
The Irish Dental Association said cutbacks to the two main dental health schemes and ongoing confusion over people’s entitlements have led to an alarming deterioration in the dental health of the population. It said the HSE’s failure to explain to people what their entitlements were, amounted to a dereliction of duty.
The IDA pointed out that a study on perceptions of dental health in seven European countries* found that Ireland had the lowest number of adults attending the dentist for routine examinations. Ireland also had the highest number of patients citing cost as a factor preventing attendance at the dentist.
The Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association, Fintan Hourihan, told delegates at the IDA’s annual conference in Galway, that the short-sightedness of withdrawing several modest benefits from three million patients was already becoming apparent.
“These simple preventive treatments were key to maintaining good dental health for the general population. In their absence dentists are seeing a huge increase in dental decay and gum disease. Other problems which may be caused or made worse by poor dental health include heart disease, strokes, diabetes, premature and low birth weight babies and respiratory disease.
By slashing the PRSI and Medical Card schemes, by halving tax reliefs for orthodontic and other dental treatments and by reducing the number of dentists and nurses in the public service by 20% over the last two years - leading to longer and longer waiting lists – this Government and its predecessor has created a dental health time bomb which will have huge repercussions for the population as a whole in coming years” Hourihan said.
The IDA believes that if the Government was to take a number of timely and cost effective measures – including the introduction of a voucher system for the annual oral examination - it could arrest the shocking decline in the dental health of the nation. It says the Government should;
- Introduce a voucher system for annual oral examination
- Gradually restore benefits to Medical Card and PRSI schemes
- Restore marginal rate of tax relief
- End the embargo on recruitment of dentists by the HSE
- Appoint a Chief Dental Officer (Vacant for the last 20 years)
“Everyone would have an entitlement to a voucher and would physically receive one. We think it would be seen as a service they have paid for in the case of PRSI employees and one to which they are entitled by medical card holders. If people had an actual voucher they might be more inclined to avail of the service and this could save them painful and costly treatment down the line as well as leading to higher detection rates for oral cancer at an early stage.
It would also be easier to administer from the State’s point of view and again more cost effective. This system has worked well in Sweden, Australia, Canada and several US states. We need urgent action. The voucher system would be a good starting point and that’s what we need right now” Hourihan concluded.
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For Further Information
Contact Kieran Garry
01/6650455 or 087/2368366
Note to Editor
Perceptions of Dental Health Ipsos survey of 7 EU countries. 3,500 people were interviewed – 500 of them in Ireland for this survey last year.