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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 10 July, 2020
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Money from 'sugar tax' should go to dental schemes, say dentists

Irish Dental Association also highlights the fact that the HSE post of Chief Dental Officer has been lying idle for TEN years.

Caring for teeth: The IDA argues that cutbacks to dental schemes lead to long-term expense for the State.
Caring for teeth: The IDA argues that cutbacks to dental schemes lead to long-term expense for the State.
Image: get directly down via Flickr.com

THE IRISH DENTAL Association – which represents dentists – wants any cash raised from a possible ‘sugar tax’ to go to funding public dental schemes that have had their monies cut.

The so-called ‘sugar tax’ is being considered by the Government as one way to tackle the obesity crisis. Health Minister James Reilly confirmed to the Dáil in September that the legislation is being looked at after an action group reported back on issues that might stem the rise in obesity and Type II diabetes.

However, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) is asking that the revenue from a ‘sugar tax’ be diverted to dental schemes. The group claimed that it would represent “the best return for the taxpayer” because maintaining oral health prevented more costly work being needed later on in life. It also referenced the United States, saying it had begun “singling out oral health for the first time as one of the leading health indicators of the US population”.

The Association’s CEO Fintan Hourihan said that “a cost-benefit analysis carried out on the PRSI scheme found that for every €1 spent the net benefit to the State was almost €3″. (This figure comes from a study carried out by Dr Brenda Gannon of NUI Maynooth on behalf of the Association).

Funding for the provision of dental care under the medical card scheme was cut back drastically two years ago – it now only covers emergency treatment. PRSI dental benefit was also cut. The IDA claims that since the funding cuts in 2009,  the number of fillings provided under the medical card scheme has declined by 63 per cent, denture treatments by 57 per cent and extractions by 30 per cent. (This is comparing the first eight months of the year with a similar timeframe in 2009.)

via Irish Dentists’ Association

The Association is also calling for the Government to fill all vacant posts in the HSE Public Dental Service and Orthodontic Service in order to cut waiting lists. Hourihan said that children were waiting years to get on the waiting list and further years then to actual treatment. He said:

The post of Chief Dental Officer in the Department of Health has been vacant for almost a decade while there is no permanent clinical lead in charge of HSE dental services.

Health Minister James Reilly gave a written answer on this issue to fellow Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan at the end of September, saying that the moratorium on filling posts in the public service meant that he could not fill the position of Chief Dental Officer. He added:

The Dental Advisor formerly on secondment to my Department has completed her secondment and returned to the HSE. Following the review of my Department under the Organisational Review Programme (ORP) we will be reviewing the skills needed for the future and this will include positions such as that of Chief Dental Officer.
This Review of Skills is in the next phase of our implementation of the Action Plan prepared in response to the ORP review and work on this phase will commence shortly.

Column: A sugar tax isn’t just desirable – it’s a necessity>

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