Govt must work to reform the Dental Treatment Services Scheme

26 January 2022

Labour health spokesperson Duncan Smith has called on Minister Stephen Donnelly to urgently progress discussions with the dental industry to ensure that the most vulnerable in society have swift access to dental treatment when they need it. Highlighting the difficulties faced by people trying to access the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), Deputy Smith said the breakdown of trust between the dentistry world and the Department must be repaired.

Deputy Smith said:

“The crisis in our dental care has been discussed many over the past number of months but this care crisis is getting worse. According to the Irish Dental Association, the most recent estimates state that only 750 dentists remain in the DTSS, less than half the number in the scheme prior to Covid-19.

“Like with access to GPs, no one should be put off going to the dentist because of costs. We are now left with a situation whereby those most vulnerable in society, who have the least discretionary funding or zero discretionary funding, are forced into a position where they must pay out of pocket for emergency dental procedures. Anyone in this country who has had a toothache knows how painful it is. To have that and to be unable to get treatment, to have to pay out of pocket, get loans from family to get dental extractions, is untenable and is something we cannot stand over.

“Today the Labour Party tabled a motion on the cost of living. This is one of the many additional emergency much-needed costs that cannot be put off. Oral health is linked to good physical health. People cannot put off the care they require and they have to get loans from family for this.

“The limitations of the service are also bizarre. Those accessing the scheme are entitled to only two free fillings a year. Once this quota is reached, the only solution available is extractions. So, rather than having access to preventative treatment, people on medical cards are forced to remove teeth, potentially unnecessarily. This is nonsensical.

“Labour have long called for the scheme to be widened to include two, rather than one, free oral examination under the scheme as well as scale and polishing. Ensuring that basic preventative treatments are included in the scheme will protect against people experiencing more severe issues down the line.

“We must ensure those who are most vulnerable and those who need it the most get dental care. We must ensure that those children who need screening as early as possible in primary school get it in fourth class instead of hoping to get it in sixth class, if, indeed, they get it at all. This will be based on successful negotiations carried out quickly. The Minister must act on behalf of those who need it most.”

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