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Budget 2020 latest: ‘Serious concerns’ over plan to introduce free dental care for children under six

Concerns have been raised by dentists over a proposal revealed in Budget 2020 to introduce free dental care for children under the age of six.

The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said the system is not resourced to deal with such a scheme, and labelled the timeline of the proposal “unrealistic”.

The IDA called for alternative models to be examined and also claimed that an interim plan is urgently required to rebuild the public school dental service.

Speaking in response to the Budget announcement that free dental care for children under six will be introduced from September 2020, Fintan Hourihan, Chief Executive of the IDA, said:

“Dentists have serious concerns about the viability of the proposed changes as regards provision of dental care for children.

“Moving from a risk-based, targeted public dental service model to a system where children are seen if they attend in private dental practices is very problematic,” he added.

The Association believes the approach being advocated in the new National Oral Health Policy is misguided and will not realise better oral health outcomes for children.

“As such, we are calling for the Minister for Health to reaffirm the commitment he made to the IDA recently to examine alternative models to those which he has proposed today,” explained Mr Hourihan.

“Our members welcome the belated commitment by the state to help families achieve better dental health for children.

“However, today’s proposals raise the expectations of parents without having any detailed implementation plan or structure in place within a system which has been depleted by inadequate resources over many years,” he added.

The IDA said that other models to improve care for children should be examined, including rebuilding the existing HSE school dental service which has seen dentist numbers fall by 20% as the number of eligible children rose by 20% over the past decade.

“The IDA has consistently called for an adequately funded public dental service,” said Mr Hourihan.

“However, we are concerned that the current erosion of the HSE public dental service is being accelerated following the publication of the new policy.

“This will leave children with the worst of both worlds in terms of access to dental care,”je added.

The IDA has written to the Minister for Health to request urgent intervention instead of “arbitrary Budget announcements”.