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Dentists say €40m Sugar Tax take could radically improve dental health

(13 Oct 2017)

A leading dentist has called for the €40m which it’s expected will be raised by the introduction of the new so-called sugar tax, to be directed at our oral health crisis.

Dr Niall Murphy, the new President of the HSE Dental Group says this revenue should be used to assist patients and families, meet the cost of dental visits and to employing up to 200 badly needed dentists in the HSE public dental service.

Dr Murphy, who is the Senior Administrative Dental Surgeon in Waterford Community Services, HSE South, said that if this money was targeted correctly, it could have a major and positive effect on oral health.

“The Government must look at plugging the huge gap in state spending on dental care, which has fallen by over half a billion euro since 2010. Slashing the PRSI and medical card dental schemes and cutting the number of dentists employed by the HSE by 20% as patient numbers rose by 20% have had extremely damaging impacts on the nation’s oral health.  Dentists are seeing rampant dental disease and decay while dental visits have fallen as household spending has reduced.” 

Addressing the Irish Dental Association’s annual seminar for HSE dentists in Kilkenny, Dr Murphy said dentists are still seeing a rise in patients requiring hospital admissions for very serious dental conditions.

“For many schoolchildren the first dental screenings isn’t taking place until sixth class. As many as 10,000 children require treatment under general anaesthesia per annum and we see waiting lists of up to four years for orthodontic care as well as lengthy delays in accessing special care dentistry. Visits to the family dentist have also fallen steeply as private dentistry has suffered the triple whammy of slashed state spending, a 60% fall in household spending and the halving of tax reliefs for dental treatment” Dr Murphy said.

The Irish Dental Association believes that no service has seen the dramatic cuts in spending nor the rapid deterioration in health status that the dental service has. It says this is why the Government must direct the bulk of the revenue collected from this new sugar tax towards dental care.

This week’s Budget announcement suggests that from April 2018, an extra 30 cent per litre will be levied on drinks with over 8 grams of sugar per 100ml.  This is expected to yield revenue of €40m in a full year according to Government estimates.