Health Minister Leo Varadkar has disputed dental healthcare claims made by the IDA that thousands of avoidable tooth extractions are conducted each year.
The dental healthcare claims were made at a seminar for Health Service dentists recently held in Carlow, where the president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) – Anne Twomey – suggested that cuts in dental funding were responsible for 95 percent of more than ten thousand tooth extractions conducted on children under anaesthetic each year.
In her speech to the delegates, Ms Twomey explained that children under the age of fifteen were needlessly undergoing multiple extractions under anaesthetic in hospitals each year due to a reduction in the schools screening service and a lack of education. Some children, she claimed, were not receiving any form of dental treatment until the age of twelve.
The reduction in the schools screening service, Ms Twomey claimed, had led to many children suffering chronic oral infections – particularly in areas of Galway, Offaly, Kerry and some parts of Cork. Ms Twomey also presented anecdotal evidence that children were being admitted to hospital for antibiotic treatment to treat the infections while they waited for appropriate dental care.
The IDA says that it warning were given to the government five years ago about the impact of cuts to dental services in Ireland, and the Association claims that the cost of the unnecessary extractions would ultimately be much more than had been saved. The figure of ten thousand avoidable extractions was called a “national disgrace”
However Health Minister Leo Varadkar has disputed the accuracy of the dental healthcare claims. Speaking to reporters, Mr Varadkar said: “The number of publicly-employed dentists has gone down from about 312 to 300 in the last couple of years, so there hasn´t been a significant reduction in the number of publicly-employed dentists”.
Mr Varadkar also denied that avoidable hospital extractions for children were running at five times the rate of the UK. He commented that the figures he had seen suggested that the figure of 3,600 dental extractions on children under the age of fifteen under anaesthetic were more accurate, and added “I think we need to know all the facts before jumping to conclusions”.