10,000 children wait for specialist dental treatment

MORE than 10,000 children were awaiting public orthodontic treatment last year, despite the appointment of 13 additional specialist orthodontists in 2005, new figures disclosed yesterday to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children show.

In 2005 there were 9,631 children awaiting treatment but by the end of September last year the figure had increased to 10,025, according to figures compiled by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The committee also heard that new guidelines drawn up by the HSE’s orthodontic review group to be introduced in the summer would see the number of children qualifying for treatment increase by 7%.

The figures also show that there were 6,523 children awaiting to be assessed last September, compared to 8,430 in 2005. There were 24,224 receiving orthodontic treatment in 2005 and 24,744 last September.

And while the number of specialist orthodontists, introduced in 2002, increased from 18 in 2001 to around 37 last year, the number of consultant orthodontists remained largely unchanged at around nine.

Chairman of the Orthodontic Review Group, Hugh Kane, said the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) would be asked to deal with the “historic” waiting list on which some children have been waiting up to four years for treatment.

Committee members were disappointed, however that the review group’s report, that will be published on Monday week, will not recommend the maximum time children should have to wait for orthodontic treatment.

Mr Kane personally felt that no child should have to wait more than 12 months for treatment.

Mr Kane pointed out that it would be easier to assess the situation in regard to waiting times once new treatment categories were introduced that were similar to those used in other European countries.

Mr Kane was also asked by committee members to respond to claims that children had their teeth permanently damaged when a regional training programmes for orthodontists in the mid-west was abruptly halted in 1999.

While he accepted that the treatment the children received was “sub-optimal,” no complaint had been made that their teeth had been damaged as a result.

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