Dentists are being encouraged to raise their concerns about the future of dental care in Ireland with their patients, ahead of the upcoming General Election.
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) is urging dentists to use the time between now and the General Election on February 8, to discuss key issues with their patients.
More than 200,000 dental appointments take place every week and the IDA insisted that where circumstances permit, a quick chat after treatment is finished would be the perfect time to explain why the next Government needs to take a different approach to oral health reforms.
"Typically, half the adult population visit their dentist once per year in Ireland, which represents a great opportunity for dentists across the country to inform patients about the dental crisis we are facing and what we want to see from politicians," commented IDA chief executive, Fintan Hourihan.
He described the Government's National Oral Health Policy as "unrealistic and unacceptable".
The policy was launched last April, promising among other things, free dental care to all children up to the age of 16. However, the IDA was not consulted about the policy or involved in its formulation.
At the time, it warned that over the last decade, spending on oral health has been slashed and as a result, such a policy would require "huge investment and resources by the State".
Speaking about the upcoming General Election, Mr Hourihan insisted that this new policy "must be reworked".
"It was introduced without any consultation with the IDA, and would worsen dental care for children, reduce benefits for medical card patients and offer nothing new for adults or pensioners.
"The IDA has produced its own vision for a better oral health plan and wishes to be involved in discussions with the next Government on reforms, which are workable for patients and which dentists can support," he said.
He insisted that dentistry in Ireland "is at a crossroads at present", with increasing waiting lists for school screenings and vital dental treatments.
"We have seen that the number of children under 16 who are eligible to be treated in the public service has increased by 20% in recent years, while at the same time the number of dentists employed by the State has dropped by 30%. We have also seen documentation confirming that soaring waiting lists of 24 to 30 months now exist for specialist treatments," he noted.
Mr Hourihan also pointed out that Budget 2020 promised free dental care to all under-6s despite the fact that the system "is buckling under the pressure and cannot cope".
"The IDA wants an adequately funded public dental health service, but ultimately, the proposals as they currently stand will damage the system even further. Politicians have to appreciate that people deserve better," he added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.