Health Minister Queries Accuracy of Dental Treatment Claims

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has queried the accuracy of dental treatment claims that thousands of hospital tooth extractions could be avoided each year.

Delegates at the recent seminar in Carlow for dentists working in the Health Service Executive were told that up to ten thousand children under the age of fifteen were needlessly undergoing multiple extractions under anaesthetic in hospitals.

The reason given for the extraordinary dental treatment claims was that cuts in children´s dental services in Ireland had resulted in a decrease in the availability of oral education in schools and a reduction in the schools screening service.

The reduction in the schools screening service had resulted in many children suffering chronic oral infections – particularly in Galway, Offaly, Kerry and some parts of Cork – with anecdotal evidence being presented that children were being admitted to hospital for antibiotic treatment while they waited for appropriate dental care.

Speaking at the seminar, Anne Twomey – the president of the Irish Dental Association – said “ninety-five percent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier.” She added that the cost of the avoidable extractions would many times more than the money that had been saved.

However Health Minister Leo Varadkar has queried the accuracy of the dental treatment claims. The Minister told reporters “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”.

He denied that avoidable hospital extractions were running at five times the rate of the UK and added that the figures he had seen suggested 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”.