A new dental health report has recommended prioritising treatment for children under six and said the intelligent use of patient co-payments should be explored as a way of managing demand and improving oral health.
It said the Government’s decision to provide universal health care for all children provided an opportunity to extend dental cover to this age group and this would facilitate earlier engagement with the dental services and allow for more disease prevention.
The first National Oral Health Forum Report, which is entitled ‘A vision for improved oral health in Ireland’ will be published today and circulated to all members of the Oireachtas. It’s the first time a coalition of all the key stakeholders have come together to put forward their views on oral health issues.
The Report found the dominant interest in dentistry related to fluoridation and orthodontics and there was little or no political representation about issues such as the prevalence, cost or suffering caused by childhood caries or the provision of specialist services for people with disabilities.
The Report also noted the impact of the economic crisis on oral health services. Spending on the PRSI scheme it stated had fallen from over €70m per annum to barely €10m while the services available for medical card holders had been severely curtailed.
In light of the downward revision of state funding of dental services, the Report recommends that patient co-payment be examined as an option for medical card patients. Forum members felt that if the state cannot or will not fund dental treatment a system whereby the patient and the state both make a contribution – similar to how the PRSI model previously operated - could ensure patients received the appropriate treatment in a timely manner.
According to The Forum this is a critical time for oral health development in Ireland and the roles of the Department of Health and the HSE in the delivery of oral care need to be clearly defined as a matter of urgency.
“Delivery decisions in the HSE need to be matched to clinical needs and prioritised in line with the available resources. At the moment the delivery of services is considered to be patchy with no uniform patterns of delivery decision or priority setting.”
“One of our key recommendations is that primary dental care should mirror the Primary Health Care Strategy and act as the hub of dental services.”
“Directly related to this is the fundamental role of primary care in fostering a culture of self-care. Both of the dominant oral diseases (caries and periodontal diseases) are avoidable to a large degree with good self care and health behaviours. Health professionals have a vital role to play in educating the public in how to maintain and manage its oral health” the report said.
The Report also recommended the introduction of foundation or post graduation training scheme in Ireland for dentists and said such training would provide a rapid return on the public investment.
According to the report the training would lead to greater patient safety, cheaper provision of service and greater access for oral care by the public.
A copy of the full report can be viewed here:
Note to Editor
The report from the First National Oral Health Forum entitled ‘A vision for improved oral health in Ireland’ is an initiative promoted primarily by the IDA, Dublin Dental School, Cork Dental School and the RCSI Faculty of Dentistry.
This is a critical time for oral health development in Ireland. The Dental Bill is expected to be published shortly – the current Dentists Act has been in place since 1985 - while the reform of the general health system has been identified as an important aspect of Government Policy. The Department of Health is commencing its first major reform in 21 years. While the appointment of a part-time Chief Dental Officer was viewed as a positive move by the Forum, they strongly believe there is a need to appoint a CDO on a full-time basis.