The Health Minister has disputed hospital dental care claims that up to ten thousand children each year are having teeth unnecessarily extracted.
The hospital dental care claims were made at the annual seminar in Carlow for dentists working in the Health Service Executive, where delegates were told that cuts in free dental care in Ireland were to blame for an increase in chronic oral infections, which in turn resulted in ten thousand children under the age of fifteen having multiple extractions under anaesthetic in hospitals.
Speaking at the seminar, Anne Twomey – president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA) – said “ninety-five percent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier.” She added that the cuts had resulted in less education about oral hygiene being available and the undermining of a highly effective schools screening service.
The IDA said that it warned the government five years ago about the impact of cuts to dental care in Ireland, and claim that the cost of the unnecessary extractions would ultimately be many multiples of the money that had been saved. The Association presented anecdotal evidence that children were being admitted to hospital for IV antibiotics to treat oral infections while they waited for hospital dental care.
However Health Minister Leo Varadkar has disputed the accuracy of the hospital dental care claims. The Minister told reporters that the figures he has seen indicate that 3,600 dental extractions under anaesthetic were conducted on children under the age of fifteen last year. He said “I think we need to know all the facts before jumping to conclusions”.
Mr Varadkar also disputed the accuracy of hospital dental care claims that suggested avoidable extractions were five times the rate of the UK. “The number of publicly-employed dentists has gone down from about 312 to 300 in the last couple of years”, he said, “so there hasn´t been a significant reduction in the number of publicly-employed dentists”.