‘Oral health crisis’ as up to 10,000 children await dental treatment

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has written to the Taoiseach urging a cross-departmental response “to the oral health crisis” at a time when upwards of 10,000 children are waiting more than a year for orthodontic treatment.

Of these, 4,362 are deemed “grade V” which includes children with difficulties chewing and swallowing and defects of cleft lip and palate.

As many as 154 grade V patients are waiting more than four years.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher, who obtained the figures, described the waiting lists as “scandalous”.

“What’s more disturbing is the figures don’t paint the full picture as figures from the Midlands and the North West were not available due to local industrial disputes,” Mr Kelleher said.

Given early treatment delivered better results, Mr Kelleher said it was “inconceivable” that more than 600 children have been waiting three to four years.

He called on Health Minister Simon Harris to secure treatment through an “enhanced” National Treatment Purchase Fund, using private dental providers in either Ireland or Northern Ireland.

IDA CEO Fintan Hourihan said the figures were “just one manifestation of the shortcomings in our dental health system due to staff shortages caused by the HSE recruitment embargo and cuts in state funding”.

He said there were also huge delays for children requiring treatment under general anaesthesia, as well as huge cuts in general dental treatment and screening of children and special care patients.

Mr Hourihan said the IDA had “consistently warned that staff shortages, clinic closures and a lack of policy and direction by the HSE are putting an intolerable burden on the public dental service and undermining its ability to provide an effective service”.

Hence the IDA has written to Leo Varadkar urging a cross-Departmental response.

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