‘Limited’ dental scheme under fire

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A free dental scheme that limits the number of fillings a patient can have, but not the number of teeth that can be removed, is driving up the rate of surgical extractions, dentists have claimed.

They say that the range of treatments available to medical card holders under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) is so limited that there is little scope for preventative work.

Irish Dental Association CEO Fintan Hourihan said the HSE had “removed preventive and restorative treatments from the very people with the greatest need” —such as cleaning, and gum cleaning, essential to prevent gum disease, and all but emergency denture and root canal treatment.

The reduction in treatments, which was imposed by the HSE in 2010, meant that, since then, patients could avail only of an annual oral examination, two fillings per annum, but unlimited extractions.

The IDA said its members are so disillusioned with the scheme that three in four want to leave it in the next five years. A survey of 440 members earlier this month found:

- 96% say that the scheme prevents them from providing same standard of care to public as private patients;

- 38% have been refused approval to provide treatment for exceptional/ high risk patients due to lack of funding.

The IDA said that while the number of patients treated under the DTSS was up 24% (from 1.08m to 1.3m), the number of treatments funded by the HSE was down 24%, between April 2009 and March 2018.

Mr Hourihan said the scheme was 24 years old “and unfit for purpose” and had fuelled a 41% increase in the number of surgical extractions and a 12% rise in routine extractions.

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