The Irish Dental Association has said it is shocked by new figures from the Central Statistics Office which show there has been a 57% fall in household spending on dental care over the last five years.
According to the CSO’s Household Budget survey, households are now spending just €84.53 on their dental care, scarcely above the €74 families were spending back in 2000.
The findings were discussed at a meeting of the IDA GP committee over the weekend. Following that meeting the Chief Executive of the IDA Fintan Hourihan said it was impossible for a family to maintain good dental health at this level of expenditure. He has called on the Taoiseach to set up a cross-departmental group to devise a response plan.
||Total annual spend on dentist visits per household
Table – CSO Household Budget Surveys – reported spending on dental care
“We are seriously concerned about the impact of cuts in household spending on citizen’s dental health. While this may be caused by the economic collapse and cuts of €500m in state supports for dental treatments, these figures indicate Irish people are not prioritising their dental care and that needs to change. This is not an optional expense. Prevention is cheaper than cure and if we don’t address the issue now we are simply storing up problems for the future.”
According to the IDA private out of pocket expenses or insurance payments account for over 80% of spending on dental care. The Association believes that public support for dental care – directly by the HSE or indirectly via the medical card and PRSI schemes – has been slashed by over €500m in the past five years.
“This is a perfect storm. Household spending on dental care has more than halved over the last five years and at the same time the state has cut dental supports to patients by €500m. We know there are huge issues out there because dentists are seeing it in their surgeries. The state will simply have to take a lead”
In their letter to the Taoiseach the IDA said it wants the Government to;
- Expand the Med 2 system of reliefs for dental treatments to offset the cost of treatments for patients
- Introduce supports to encourage first dental visits at twelve months
- Increase investment in the PRSI dental scheme (DTBS)
- Direct that negotiations start on a new scheme and contract for medical card (DTSS) patients
- Direct the appointment of extra dentists by the HSE to cater for children and special care patients
- Explore the potential for dentists to assist in detection of general health risks as well as oral health
- Prioritise early publication of a new Dental Bill