Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has called on the Minister for Health to take urgent and strategic action to reduce waits for dental care.
The TD for Waterford said that dentistry is challenged by an under-supply of qualified dentists, dental nurses, and support staff, and that public access has rapidly decreased because of underfunding.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“The Irish Dental Association has demonstrated that the dental care sector is severely challenged by a lack of strategic planning at government level. The majority of dentists are experiencing difficulties in hiring additional dentists, and up to 80% of dentists who are still on the public Dental Treatment Service Scheme are not taking new public patients.
“The Dental Treatment Service Scheme (DTSS) itself is collapsing due to underfunding and capacity challenges. There were only 1,045 dentists on the scheme in January 2023, which is less than one-third of dentists. There were 1,490 dentists on the scheme in 2019.
“The real number of dentists actively providing services under the scheme is much lower. Only 634 dentists submitted claims under the scheme by the end of 2022. In real terms, that is a severe reduction of up to 800 less dentists providing services to public patients.
“The DTSS is not working. We need a new, modern contract for public dentistry. The private sector is struggling to provide services for private patients as it is, with one-in-six patients waiting over three months for appointments.
“We need a new, ambitious strategic plan for dentistry. That must include workforce planning and a significant increase in the number of dentists we are training. In Sinn Féin’s alternative budget, we proposed a substantial increase in the number of dentists in training by 35%, or 60 additional students.
“We have also proposed a substantial increase in public dentistry provision, starting with screening in schools and dental care for children, as well as directly employed dentists to provide dental care for public patients.
“We have not seen the level of ambition that is needed from government, and this is exacerbating severe waits for dental care.”