Patients reminded not to defer dental appointments in event of tighter Covid-19 restrictions

Patients reminded not to defer dental appointments in event of tighter Covid-19 restrictions

(05 Oct 2020)

The President of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has stressed that patients should not defer dental appointments in the event of changes in the level of Covid-19 restrictions.

Speaking today, Dr Anne O’Neill, President of the IDA, said: “It is critical that dentistry remains open for business, even in the event of the country going to Level 5 restrictions. We are not facing lockdown along the lines of what we experienced in the spring; dental practices have incorporated effective social distancing and necessary infection control measures. Now, dentistry remains open and patients should continue to attend their dentist for scheduled appointments to maintain oral health and ensure oral healthcare issues do not develop.”

Dr O’Neill said that dentists continue to operate in a safe, clinical environment. “Dentists have proven that they can practice in a safe manner since the emergence of Covid-19, and they will continue to risk-assess each patient to ensure safety guidelines are maintained. Oral health is an essential part of a person’s overall health, and attendance at your dentist should not be deferred.”

Separately, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has called for urgent Government action in Budget 2021 to address the ongoing crises that exist around capacity and resourcing in dentistry so that all patients can be supported. The Association is publishing its pre-Budget submission today (Monday).

Speaking today, Mr Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said that the Government could no longer afford to delay its response to the dentistry crisis, given the implications for patients around the country. 

“The provision of private and public service dentistry has been severely affected since the emergence of Covid-19 in March, and up to now the Government has failed utterly to address the crisis in any meaningful way. Half of all private dentists have reported that their costs have increased by 30-50% as a result of Covid-19 yet, after being promised PPE by the last Government five months ago, over 700 dentists have been ignored since then. Furthermore, there has been a 22% drop over five years in the number of dentists signed up to the outdated and unfit-for-purpose medical card scheme, which is having dire implications for approximately 150,000 patients.”

Dr. O’Neill said that the problems were not confined to the private sector. “There is a full-blown crisis in public service dentistry, with up to 40% of skilled staff having been redeployed to help in testing and contact tracing efforts for Covid-19. These staff have not been replaced, which disproportionately affects children and special needs patients.”

In the pre-Budget submission, the IDA calls for:

  • Improved access to oral and dental healthcare for adults by offering supports to patients;
  • Improved capacity within private practice dentistry; and
  • Adequate resourcing for our collapsing public dental service.

Dr. O’Neill said: “Oral health is a crucial part of a person’s overall health. In a recent IDA members’ survey, over 60% of dentists said they believed that Covid-19 would have a moderate to major impact on the oral health of the population. Make no mistake, we are facing a serious healthcare emergency with worse to come if more is not done to help both private and public service dentists. Our patients are the ones who will bear the brunt of this emergency, and this must be addressed in the Budget as a matter of urgency.”

Click here to download the pre-budget submission.