Those with medical cards shut out of dental care.
I along with the Regional Group of Independent TDs have tabled a private members motion in the Dáil this week setting out the problems and dire consequences of the lack of access to dental treatment.
Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages but due to the effective collapse of the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, oral diseases are becoming more common and share risk factors with chronic disease such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
Our health service is in crisis and chronic illness such as such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are compounding these pressures, all of which are added to by deteriorating oral health especially among those who cannot afford to pay for a dentist.
To address this mounting crisis the Regional Group of TDs have published a Dáil motion which will be debated next Thursday calling for access improvement to dental care in an equitable and sustainable manner across all income groups.
Every week we are contracted by patients across the country who despite having a medical card cannot get dental care as dentists have withdrawn from the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS). These people who are relying on welfare payments to meet their day to day needs just cannot afford to pay for a dentist.
Most community healthcare dentists are at full capacity and unable to take on new patients. The public dental service is on its knees, the DTSS needs to be reviewed and reformed without further delay with full stakeholder consultation.
The delays in dental care are affecting those in most need, especially, children and people with disabilities. More than 13,000 children are awaiting orthodontic treatment. Many children do not get their first dental check until secondary school children. More and more adults with disabilities are facing delays in accessing dental surgery under general anaesthetic.
Regional Group Members state there are many solutions available to the Government, but they need to be initiated now.
We need to provide additional training to allow paediatric dental services to operate where there is a lack of paediatric nursing staff.
Reforming the Dental Tax Relief scheme (Med 2) to increase the tax relief will assist those struggling with increasing bills by expanding access to treatments and reliefs available.
Regional Group Members highlight the issue of staff shortages across the entire sector including dentists, associates, hygienists, and nurses. Immediate reform is required for work permit schemes for dentists and dental nurses. Additional undergraduate places for dental graduates in Irish universities are needed and we need to provide additional training places for auxiliary workers and a renewed vocational training scheme. Long term thinking is needed.
The Regional Group of TDs note that supporting our dental and health care providers supports the health of our people and saves money and pressure on our health services in the long run.