100,000 Children on Waiting Lists in Dental | Irish Dental Jobs

by Margaret Kierans

The crisis in dental care for children in Ireland continues to deepen, with more than 100,000 youngsters missing out on essential school screening appointments in 2023. This concerning trend, underscored by the Irish Dental Association, reflects a system grappling with a severe shortage of dentists and an urgent need for increased resources to address the growing demand.

Over the past five years, there has been a significant decline in the number of children receiving screenings, dropping by 31% from 2019 to 2023, despite a notable population increase. Compounding this issue is a 24% decrease in the workforce of public dentists since 2006, exacerbating the strain on services and contributing to a mounting backlog of children awaiting their first appointments.

The association has criticized the government's apparent disregard for oral health services, pointing out stark disparities in hiring trends compared to other sectors within the healthcare system. Fintan Hourihan, CEO of the Irish Dental Association, has expressed concern about the uncertainty surrounding public dental services, particularly in light of suggestions that children seek private dental care when the focus should be on strengthening the public system.

This political uncertainty, coupled with recruitment challenges, has made it increasingly difficult to attract dentists to the public sector. Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty has condemned the recruitment embargo, describing it as nonsensical and attributing it to the collapse of the screening program. With a current shortage of 500 public dentists, the repercussions are dire, leaving many children without the care they desperately need and placing undue burden on families who cannot afford private treatment.

While Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has defended the government's investment in oral healthcare, citing various initiatives aimed at addressing service backlogs and improving access for vulnerable populations, concerns persist regarding the effectiveness of these measures in tackling the systemic challenges facing public dental services. There remains a pressing need for comprehensive action to ensure that all children have access to the dental care they require for their overall health and well-being.


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