Irish Dental Association Urges Government to Open Emergency Dental Centres to all Patients

Irish Dental Association Urges Government to Open Emergency Dental Centres to all Patients

(06 Apr 2020)

The President of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has urged the Government to publish its plans regarding the provision of emergency dental care in designated dental centres across the country. In a letter to the Minister for Health, the Association’s President said it is crucial that these services are provided to all patients regardless of their statutory entitlement to care.

Speaking today, Professor Leo Stassen, President of the IDA, said: “The initial advice from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) and Department of Health regarding the provision of dental care in light of the Covid-19 crisis has been changed as a result of extensive lobbying on our part, along with the HSE National Oral Health Office and general pressure. But it is clear that more needs to be done.”

Prof. Stassen wrote that designated dental centres needed to provide for all patients, not just medical card holders, adding that the establishment of similar dental centres abroad had allowed the redeployment of dental teams to other areas of the health services. “Many dentists, in Ireland, have already volunteered on 'Be on Call for Ireland' and many more have expressed an interest in working in emergency dental centres,” he said.

Prof. Stassen also wrote that the IDA did not agree with the Department of Health’s current advice on aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs), arguing that they posed an “unacceptable risk” to dentists, their staff, and patients.

“We request that the Department would revisit the guidance being issued to dentists to state that AGPs should be avoided in routine settings, thereby bringing that advice into line with that prevailing in practically every other comparable jurisdiction, rather than the current advice suggesting that they [AGPs] be minimised and thereby expose dentists, patients and their staff to unacceptable risk as we see it.”

In a note to IDA members, Prof. Stassen said that there are no normal rules now, and that the way dentistry was being offered needed to change in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. “For now, people with emergencies should be seen following phone/video triage and if they need to be seen directly, they should be seen initially in an assessment room and offered any treatment in a prepared room with the correct and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) based on science, not simply available resources.”

Prof. Stassen said remote dentistry was achievable in practice for as long as Covid-19 remained a factor: “Prescribing antibiotics and analgesics from a consultation over the phone / video call is necessary and will be supported by the dental protection as long as a good clinical history is recorded and appropriate advice given to the patient.” 

The IDA is the representative body for 2,000 dentists (public and private) practising in Ireland.