Sunday 17 December 2017

People 'having teeth extracted because it's cheaper than fillings'

Hospital admissions for dental infections soars by third after medical card scheme cuts
Hospital admissions for dental infections soars by third after medical card scheme cuts

Eilish O’Regan

The number of people needing hospital admission for dental infections has soared by more than a third after cuts to the medical card scheme, dentists warned today.

And more people are being forced to have their teeth extracted because  it's cheaper than doing fillings.

Dentists attending the annual conference of the Irish Dental Association described the medical card scheme as now being “wholly unfit for purpose and called for it to be replaced as soon as possible.”

They said the dental profession has no confidence in the operation of the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) by the HSE because it has manifestly failed the patients it was designed to serve.

A new report up to December 31 last found the number of patients eligible for dental care under the Scheme stood at 1,734,853 representing 37pc of the population. This is an increase of 256,293 or 17% since December 2009.

However despite the fact that the number of eligible patients has increased significantly, the number of treatments has actually fallen by 20pc.

“This is due to unilateral cuts to the Scheme which the HSE imposed in 2010 without informing or consulting with patients, contractor dentists or the Irish Dental Association.

“The cuts mean it is essentially an emergency care only scheme with patients only entitled to an annual exam, two fillings and unlimited extractions, said the Association’s chief executive Fintan Hourihan.

He said :”The amount of cleanings has fallen by 97pc and the number of protracted periodontal treatments (for gum disease) has fallen by 80pc, while the number of fillings has also fallen by over 33pc

“ On the other hand surgical extractions have increased by 53pc and routine extractions have increased by over 14pc.

“There has also been a 38pc increase in the number of people with severe dental infections requiring hospital admissions since the cuts were made.”


Comments by dentists included:

I am more or less just doing extractions now

- A patient presented with a number of decayed teeth, all sore. I was not able to treat them all and had to choose two

- There is an inability to provide the correct treatment

- Emergency patch up jobs only for DTSS patients, no comprehensive care, this is very damaging to long-term health

- It is horrendously stressful trying to explain to patients routinely that you cannot provide the basic care that they require

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