The Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said dentists will draw attention to the country’s “dental crisis” during the general election campaign.
Mr. Fintan Hourihan was speaking today as the IDA released its general election manifesto. He said that, for the first time, the IDA would be calling on dentists to use the three weeks before the general election on Saturday, February 8th to discuss the association’s key campaign messages with patients.
Over 200,000 dental appointments take place every week and the Association says dentists need to explain their concerns to patients. Where circumstances permit, a quick chat once treatment is finished would be an ideal opportunity to explain why the next Government must take a new approach to oral health reforms.
“Typically, half the adult population visit their dentist once per year in Ireland, which represents a great opportunity for dentists across the country to inform patients about the dental crisis we are facing and what we want to see from politicians,” he said.
Mr. Hourihan said the “unrealistic and unacceptable” National Oral Health Policy would be a prime focus for dentists during the campaign, and that the IDA must be included in fresh negotiations on the proposed policy.
He said: “The new approach towards dental care is unrealistic and unacceptable, and must be reworked. It was introduced without any consultation with the IDA, and would worsen dental care for children, reduce benefits for medical card patients and offer nothing new for adults or pensioners.” The IDA has produced its own vision for a better oral health plan and wishes to be involved in discussions with the next Government on reforms which are workable for patients and which dentists can support.
In the run-up to the general election on Saturday, February 8th, Mr. Hourihan said the IDA would canvas political parties for their stance on:
A new deal for oral health with appropriate funding;
- Reversing Government cuts and increasing the provision of public service dentistry;
- A renewed focus on prevention;
- Better access for patients; and
- Increased capacity.
“Dentistry in Ireland is at a crossroads at present, with ever-lengthening waiting lists for school screenings and vital dental treatments. This cannot be allowed to continue for the sake of all Irish people, especially children,” he said.
“The proposed National Oral Health Policy seeks to eliminate our risk-based, targeted public dental service model which has been in place for over 20 years, whereby dentists reach out to children who need treatment, offering an integrated safety net and continuity of care.
“We have seen that the number of children under 16 who are eligible to be treated in the public service has increased by 20% in recent years while at the same time the number of dentists employed by the State has dropped by 30%. We have also seen documentation confirming that soaring waiting lists of 24 to 30 months now exist for specialist treatments.
“Added to this, Budget 2020 promised free dental care to all under-6s. The system is buckling under the pressure and cannot cope. The IDA wants an adequately funded public dental health service but, ultimately, the proposals as they currently stand will damage the system even further. Politicians have to appreciate that people deserve better.”
Furthermore, Mr. Hourihan said that dentists in general practice, who provide care to 90% of the population, have renewed their focus on promoting independent dentistry in the absence of willingness by the current Government to engage with them on key issues.
Click here to read IDA's election manifesto.