How often should I visit my dentist?

You should visit your dentist at least once a year, more often if you have difficulties. 

Remember under the PRSI and Medical Card dental schemes you are entitled to a free oral examination once a year!


What is dental amalgam?

Dental amalgam is the material that silver-coloured fillings are made from. It contains several metals, including mercury.

What treatment is available under the PRSI Scheme?

PRSI payers are entitled to an annual oral examination free of charge. To find a dentist near you, who participates in the Scheme, check out our Find a Dentist section.

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I have a medical card. What treatment am I entitled to?

Generally, you are entitled: 

  • One Oral Examination in a calendar year
  • Two Fillings in a calendar year
  • Extractions

Most other treatment has been limited to high risk patients i.e. patients who are suffer from a medical condition or emergency circumstances. Your dentist will apply to the HSE for approval for your treatment. 

To find a dentist near you who participates in the Scheme, you should use our Find a Dentist section
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What dental treatment are children entitled to?

The HSE operates the Schools Screening Services which aims to screen children in Second, Fourth and Sixth Class. Unfortunately due to restrictions in the public service, these target classes are not always reached. 

Children under the age of 16 should be entitled to receive emergency treatment from the HSE public dental service. 

How do I make a complaint about my dentist. Where should I go?

Before a formal complaint is made, every effort should be make to resolve any difficulties you are having directly with your dentist. If you feel unable to do this verbally, try doing it in writing.  

While it is always best to contact your treating dentist in the first instance, you may wish to avail of the Dental Complaints Resolution Service. This service aims to resolve complaints submitted by patients. 

If, at the end of the day, you feel you have not got satisfaction, and you wish to pursue the matter further, you should contact the  Irish Dental Council .

The Dental Council is a body established by legislation to promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists and to maintain Registers of persons entitled to practise dentistry in the State.  

The Council is empowered to inquire into cases of alleged professional misconduct and alleged unfitness to practise because of physical or mental disability. If you have a complaint the Council may be able to assist you.

I visited a new dentist today who asked me a lot of questions about my general health. Was this really necessary?

At your first (and subsequent) visit(s) to a dentist, a thorough medical history is routinely taken. The history will include asking you questions about your general health, previous illnesses and how they may affect your dental appointments. 

The dentist will also ask you about any medication you are taking and will ask about any allergies you might have. 
These are all precautionary measures designed to ensure that treatment can be carried out safely and efficiently while you visit your dentist.

I think I may be pregnant. Does my dentist need to know this?

If you think there is a chance you might be pregnant, it is always wise to inform your dentist before you begin treatment. Being pregnant will not prevent you from having dental treatment carried out, but most dentists prefer to defer any elective procedures (procedures that are not absolutely necessary) until after the pregnancy is over. This is particularly the case during the first and third trimesters. The taking of dental x-rays is also best avoided, if possible, during pregnancy, but experts agree that x-rays may be taken, where necessary, in the case of an emergency.

Why do my gums bleed every time I brush my teeth?

The most common reason why gums bleed is due to the teeth and gums not being cleaned thoroughly enough. If you leave bacteria-containing dental plaque sitting on the teeth beside the gums, the bacteria infect the gums themselves. 

ginigivitisThe picture to the right here shows gums that have been infected. Notice the red colour all along the edge of the gum beside the teeth. Compare this picture with the picture below, and you can see the gums are swollen as well as being red. This gum infection is called gingivitis.  

gingivaThe picture here on the right shows nice healthy gums. The teeth have been kept clean, and the gum has now healed up. It's no longer swollen, and is a healthy pink colour. Healthy gums like this will not bleed when brushed.

What exactly is plaque and where is it found?

Plaque is a soft sticky substance, and can be removed with regular, thorough brushing and flossing. Your dentist should be able to show you if there's plaque on your teeth. They will also show you how to brush and floss properly in order to stop plaque accumulating.

The dental hygienist recommended flossing. Is it really any good?

Absolutely! Normal brushing doesn't clean in between the teeth fully. The most common and effective way of doing this is by flossing. The dental floss removes the plaque between teeth. It is important flossing is carried out correctly, and regularly, at least once a day. You should get your dentist to demonstrate for you. Some patients may need to use other methods, like small brushes that fit between the teeth, particularly if the spaces between the teeth are bigger than normal. Your dentist will advise you on the method most suitable for you.


Is tooth whitening a safe procedure?

Tooth whitening is a procedure that should be carried out by a dentist only. There are many reasons for this. Hydrogen peroxide is a substance that should be handled with care and this should only be done by a qualified dentist. Any staining on your teeth may be due to an underlying condition and your dentist may diagnose this. Further information is available here

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I think I have broken a piece of a filling in my tooth - what should I do?

Unfortunately sometimes fillings for whatever reason may fall out or become chipped or broken. 

There are many reasons for this including biting down suddenly on something hard such as a hard boiled sweet. Symptoms can vary from none at all to sensitivity to hot and cold or tenderness on chewing. A lost filling will always feel much bigger to the tongue. 

It is important to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. However if you cannot immediately access a dentist here are some  helpful tips .

  • If you are having sensitivity try avoiding eating or drinking in that area, similarly if it is painful on biting. 
  • The use of toothpaste can help with the sensitivity by rubbing some fluoride toothpaste on the tooth in question.
  • As a temporary measure until you visit your dentist you may try and get some oil of cloves or a temporary filling kit from your pharmacy. However it is important that you attend your dentist as soon as possible to get the tooth restored to normal function. 

Finally the use of over-the-counter painkillers from a chemist if is constantly painful are also helpful until you contact the dentist. 

Don’t place any pain-killing tablets on the site of the tooth or its gum as this can cause burns to the gum.


My child has fallen on the pavement and has knocked out a front tooth. What should I do?

If a tooth is knocked out, the most important thing is to  replace it as soon as possible . The tooth should be picked up by the crown (the part visible in the mouth normally) only. You should not touch the root.  

The tooth should be rinsed briefly under cold water to dislodge any dirt. Do not scrub the tooth! 

Still holding the crown, place the tooth gently back into the socket. (make sure it is the right way round - looking at the same tooth on the other side will help here.) 

If the tooth can't be put back in the socket, the most important thing is for it to be stored properly until you get to the dentist. Milk is ideal, as it simulates conditions in the body quite well. If milk isn't available, water is better than nothing, but don't let the tooth dry out. 

You must attend a dentist as quickly as possible. With all dental injuries, time is of critical importance, and will make the difference between possibly keeping the tooth, or surely losing it.


My dentist told me my tooth needs Root Canal Treatment. What does this mean?

Root canal therapy is where the nerve in the tooth has died and has to be removed. When the nerve dies, as it decays, bacteria multiply and cause an infection. This leads to pain and an abscess if left untreated. 

The procedure is actually totally painless, and can be quite a relief if you've been in pain beforehand! The dentist uses small precision files to clean out the space in the middle of the tooth that contains the nerve. This space is then filled with a rubbery material, sealing it. This procedure allows a tooth to be kept that would otherwise have to be extracted.

My dentist told me my front tooth needs a 'crown'. What exactly is a crown?

A crown is like a jacket or cap that fits over a prepared tooth. It has the same shape as the original tooth. If a tooth is badly broken down, a crown is often the only option. By fully enclosing the tooth it is strong, and where indicated it can have an excellent appearance, looking just like a real tooth. It can be made of a metal alloy, of porcelain, or a combination of both. To allow the crown to fit, the tooth must be prepared first. This involves trimming the tooth down a little. Crowns are fixed in place with cement.


While biting something hard, my crown came out - what should I do?

Crowns are special caps that are custom made to fit your tooth. They are normally placed on teeth that are broken down or had been decayed and may already have had a root canal treatment. 

Sometimes the crown may come loose or even fall off. This can possibly happen if there is a problem underneath the crown such as decay or if the tooth has been traumatised.  

It is important to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. If you cannot get to the dentist immediately here are some tips:

  • It is a good idea to hold onto to the crown whether it’s a temporary or permanent crown. 
  • If the tooth is sensitive the use of a fluoride toothpaste will help by rubbing some toothpaste onto the tooth. 
  • As a temporary measure until you visit your dentist you can also place some temporary filling material over the tooth to help the sensitivity. 

Don’t place pain killing tablets on the site of the tooth or its gum as it can cause burns to the gum. If the tooth is painful to bite on the use over-the-counter painkillers may help until you see your dentist.

I have a very sore jaw joint, especially after waking up. Any ideas why?

This is a common problem which mainly affects adults. There are numerous causes including trauma, awkward biting and stress. This is due to excessive grinding (bruxing) of the teeth which can make the chewing muscles around the mouth tender and inflamed. It often happens subconsciously when you are asleep. It is important to contact your dentist if this problem arises. 

Simple jaw exercises or the application of hot and cold may ease the tension or spasm in the muscles. 

A splint that is like a night guard can also be made by your dentist to prevent your teeth contacting during grinding. This is a relatively straightforward procedure where your dentist takes impressions of your teeth. 

Otherwise painkillers or other over-the-counter (OTC) remedies like anti-inflammatories may help relieve the symptoms.

I tend to suffer from mouth ulcers - how can these be treated?

Mouth ulcers are a common ailment of the mouth. Most people will experience them at some stage during their life. 

The main causes of mouth ulcers are:
  • chipped or broken fillings rubbing against e.g. the tongue
  • poor diet
  • stress or even a change in the weather.  
Simple, small ulcers will usually heal within 7 days. However if you are having recurrent or longer lasting ulcers you should consult your dentist. The use of warm salty water or a mouth rinse can help with the discomfort. Similarly obtaining some medicated pastilles from the chemist may be useful.

Try to avoid spicy or acidic foods or locally applied asprin as they may aggravate the ulcers.

I have a gap near the side of my mouth and the dentist mentioned the option of a bridge. What is a bridge?

A classical dental bridge (now called a "fixed partial denture") is like two crowns, with a false tooth between them. The whole bridge is cemented in place, thus the missing tooth is replaced by the replica tooth between the two crowns. Bridges can be much more complicated than this and different types exist. 

Sometimes, the bridge is glued to the backs of the teeth each side of the space, instead of putting a crown over the whole tooth. This is known as a 'Maryland Bridge'.


A friend of mine is having a dental implant placed. What is this?

Dental implants are a comparatively recent development. An implant is basically a titanium screw, upon a false tooth is supported, which 'screws' directly into the jaw bone. Implants are used as anchors for fixed false teeth (like a crown or bridge as described above) or to provide support for a removable denture. 

Implants are very successful, but they are not suitable for everybody. You must have enough bone to place the implant into for example. Implants are quite expensive, but where they can be used, they are often the ideal solution to replacing missing teeth.

How safe are Amalgam / Mercury fillings?

Dental amalgam has been used on patients for over 150 years. All available world-wide research indicates that amalgam is not harmful to health. This view is endorsed by the International Dental Federation, the International Association for Dental Research, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and many dental associations, including the American, British and Canadian. 

No Government or reputable scientific, medical or dental body anywhere in the world accepts, on any published evidence, that dental amalgam is a hazard to health.   

Dental research is ongoing in a wide variety of areas, including filling materials, in the search to provide the most up to date and safest treatments to the public at large.