The €40 million which is expected to be raised by next year's sugar tax should be used to improve dental health services, a leading dentist has said.
From April 2018, there will be a tax of 30c per litre on drinks containing over 8g of sugar per 100ml, and a tax of 20c per litre on drinks containing between 5g and 8g of sugar per 100ml.
This tax has been introduced in an attempt to halt the increasing obesity crisis in Ireland. It is expected to raise around €40 million in its first year.
According to Dr Niall Murphy, new president of the HSE Dental Group, any revenue raised by the tax should be used to help people to meet their dental costs and to employ up to 200 ‘badly needed' dentists in the HSE public dental service.
Dr Murphy, who is the senior administrative dental surgeon in Waterford Community Services, believes that if this money was targeted correctly, it could have a major impact on oral health.
"The Government must look at plugging the huge gap in State spending on dental care, which has fallen by over half a billion euro since 2010. Slashing the PRSI and medical card dental schemes, and cutting the number of dentists employed by the HSE by 20% as patient numbers rose by 20%, have had extremely damaging impacts on the nation's oral health," he commented.
He noted that dentists are seeing ‘rampant dental disease and decay' because dental visits have fallen as household spending has reduced.
Dentists are also still seeing an increase in patients requiring hospital admission for serious dental conditions.
"For many school children, the first dental screenings isn't taking place until sixth class. As many as 10,000 children require treatment under general anaesthesia per annum and we see waiting lists of up to four years for orthodontic care as well as lengthy delays in accessing special care dentistry.
"Visits to the family dentist have also fallen steeply as private dentistry has suffered the triple whammy of slashed state spending, a 60% fall in household spending and the halving of tax reliefs for dental treatment," Dr Murphy explained.
He made his comments at the Irish Dental Association's annual seminar for HSE dentists in Kilkenny.