Health Minister Leo Varadkar has disputed hospital dental care claims that up to ten thousand children each year are having teeth unnecessarily extracted. The claims were made at the annual seminar for dentists working in the HSE, where delegates were informed that cuts in free dental care in Ireland were to blame for an increase seen in chronic oral infections, which in turn resulted in ten thousand children under the age of fifteen having multiple teeth taken out under anaesthetic in hospital.
Anne Twomey-president of the Irish Dental Association (IDA)-stated that “ninety-five percent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier.” She further added that the cuts had resulted in less information about oral hygiene being presented at schools, and the undermining of a highly effective schools screening service which could find such problems early on.
The IDA claims that it warned the government about the impacts of the cuts to dental care in Ireland five years ago. They claim that the cost of the unnecessary extractions would ultimately be many multiples of the money that would have been saved. Anecdotal evidence of children being admitted to hospital for IV antibiotics to treat oral infections while they waited for hospital dental care was also presented at the conference.
The health minister has disputed the accuracy of the claims made by the IDA. He told reporters that the figures he had seen indicated that only 3,600 dental extractions under anaesthetic were conducted on children under the age of fifteen last year, not the 10,000 that the IDA had claimed. He said “I think we need to know all the facts before jumping to conclusions”.
Minister Varadkar also disputed the accuracy of hospital dental care claims that suggested avoidable extractions were taking place at five times the rate seem in 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”.