Smart Consumer: It's time to bite back at cuts in dental treatment
'My staff are heartbroken at turning away old people who spend five minutes just climbing the stairs to my door, to be told that we no longer have anything to offer them unless it is an emergency and they are in pain. How the hell will we go home at night after turning people in need away?"
So asks one dentist in a submission by the Irish Dental Association (IDA) to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children regarding the Dental Treatment Services Scheme.
It's a question worth asking given that, since April, dental treatment for medical-card holders has been curtailed.
The IDA has called on the HSE to "suspend their circular with immediate effect, to engage with the IDA and review alternative sources of funding".
With some dentists dependent on medical-card patients for up to 90% of their income, they will undoubtedly be affected. But so too are patients.
Around 1.6 million Irish people have medical cards and that includes children, people with special needs and the elderly.
They are no longer entitled to routine treatment but emergency dental treatment only. And even this is restricted under the new guidelines.
If you pay PRSI, you are no better off, as from January 1 this year dental treatments under that scheme are now restricted to oral examinations only.
So, it comes back to paying for dental treatment yourself, if you can. And if you have private health insurance you should check to see what dental care is covered under your policy.
For example, all Aviva customers can get €30 back on dental treatment up to 25 visits. Aviva has also introduced a Dental Access Package for all members, which entitles you to discounts at one of the 13 Smiles Dental Clinics nationwide.
You can avail of a check-up and X-ray for €30 or a check-up, X-ray, scale and polish for €80 as well as discounts of between 12.4% and 30% for orthodontics, teeth whitening and veneers.
VHI's dental cover varies depending on the plan. For example, First Plan Level 1 provides €25 per visit up to seven visits, or Family Plan Plus Level 2 provides €35 per visit up to seven visits. You can also buy a dental package add-on with the VHI from €10 and €17 per month. Cover varies from 70% of a maximum allowed for exams, scaling, polishing and X-rays to 100pc for exams and cleaning with the dearer plan.
Quinn's dental cover also varies according to the plan; you can claim up to €25 each year on Essential Plus Starter, for example, or €30 per visit up to 10 visits on their Family Care policy.