Survey of dentists highlights dramatic impact of Covid-19 on patients' oral health and on livelihood of dentists

Survey of dentists highlights dramatic impact of Covid-19 on patients' oral health and on livelihood of dentists

(06 May 2020)

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has warned that Ireland is facing an unprecedented crisis that poses a “grave threat to the nation’s oral health” after a survey published today outlined the scale of the crisis facing dentists in light of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a survey of 329 private dentists around Ireland:

  • 87% say they are unlikely or very unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels of service
  • Nearly 80% report a high or very high risk to the sustainability of their practice
  • 93% predict a drop in income of at least 40% in medium to long term with over 50% predicting income drop of over 80%
  • 67% can only maintain the viability of their practice for a maximum of three months
  • 86% believe there is a need for access to emergency centres for all patients
  • 86% of practices have laid off staff

Speaking today, Mr. Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said: “This survey highlights that we are facing a grave threat to the nation’s oral health as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Routine dentistry is forbidden currently and many practices cannot facilitate emergency treatments in their premises due to the scarcity of personal protective equipment. This means that a significant number of dentists have increasing difficulty in helping patients who desperately need help.

“Oral health is a key part of a person’s overall health, and the effects of this outbreak will have repercussions that will last long after the virus has disappeared. The bleak reality is that, unless supports are put in place for dentists, dental practices will close and patients will have to travel further for dental care and hospitals will be overwhelmed with emergency dental appointments.”

He said: “Covid-19 has had a horrendous effect on the dental profession and, without State assistance such as a special kickstart package of financial aid and help with sourcing adequate PPE as has been done for pharmacists and doctors, serious and permanent damage will be done to the capacity to provide dental care. Patients will suffer as dentists find it impossible to deal with the unprecedented demands placed on the delivery of their services.”

He said that, of the practices that had applied for the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, nearly a third (29%) had been rejected, while 71% of practices which had applied for other financial support packages from the State had been unsuccessful.

Mr. Hourihan emphasised that dentists remain available to provide emergency care including emergency treatments where circumstances and PPE permit. He added that patients should contact their dentist if they are experiencing any difficulties or pain.

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