Statistics report reveals oral health crisis in Ireland due to cuts in state funding

02 August 2017 Healthcare

New data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in Ireland showed that the number of treatments funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Dental Treatment Service Scheme have fallen by over 16% between 2013–2016.

"Today’s report from the CSO confirms the shocking impact of cuts in state funding for dental care and the dire need for an emergency plan to address our oral health crisis."
Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive at Irish Dental Association 

The Irish Dental Association had recently written to the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and other Government Ministers urging a cross-departmental approach to dealing with the oral health crisis, as new evidence continues to become apparent with greater regularity.

Prevention still not a priority over treatment

The report also showed that curative treatments (such as extractions, fillings and dentures) significantly outnumber preventative treatments – which is consistent with studies showing a 38% increase in patients admitted to hospitals for severe infections caused by tooth decay.

State support for dental treatment has fallen from almost €150 million in 2009 to less than €75 million in 2016. Statistics also show that households have dramatically decreased their spending on dental treatment, from an average of €197 in 2010 to €84.53 in 2015.

Economic impact on oral health

The global financial crisis in 2009 had important repercussions on the Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme provided by social insurance. Workers had been entitled to a free dental checkup and cleaning, as well as subsidized gum cleaning, fillings, extractions, root canal treatments, X-rays and denture work. After 2009, budget cuts left workers only with the free examination and were required to pay for the cost of all other treatments.

"Separately, we know that while the under-16 population has increased by 20% over the past decade to 1.1 million, the number of dentists in the Public Dental Service charged with looking after their oral health has dropped by 20% due to recruitment restrictions. 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 are undermining its ability to provide an effective service."
Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive at Irish Dental Association