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Only one in five entitled people availed of free dental exams last year

Despite 3.3 million Irish adults being entitled to free dental check ups, fewer that 600,000 availed of the scheme last year.

Image: Rui Vieira/PA Archive/Press Association Images

FEWER THAN 600,000 Irish adults availed of free dental check ups last year – despite 3.3 million being entitled to do so.

The Irish Dental Association said that while there have been substantial increases in the number eligible for free examinations, figures show that fewer people are availing of them. The report also reveals that expenditure on both the Medical Card Scheme and the PRSI Dental Scheme have declined rapidly.

Galway-based dentist Dr Peter Gannon cited a lack of clarity amongst patients over their entitlements as the main reason for so few availing of the free examination scheme – and placed the blame for this on the HSE and the Department of Social Protection.

“If something is for free it is usually totally oversubscribed. Eight out of ten Irish people are entitled to a free oral exam so why are  attendance figures so low?” he asked. “Without warning, the HSE reduced the Medical Card Scheme to an emergency only scheme, while at the same time the Department of Social Protection removed all benefits under the PRSI scheme except the annual check-up.”

Also commenting on the figures, Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association Fintan Hourihan said that said recent suggestions by the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton regarding the increase of PRSI contributions “beggared belief”.

“Given the Minister’s title one would have thought she would be doing everything possible to make sure people on Medical Cards and those paying PRSI would be receiving their full benefit. As it is people paying PRSI are already being short changed,” he said.

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“How could a Government Minister countenance increasing it when they have failed to deliver on all their pre-election promises pertaining to dental health?”

Gannon encouraged those eligible to take part in the free examination scheme to do so, saying that regular check-ups help to  identify problems earlier, resulting in simpler and less expensive treatment.

Read: HSE underspent on dental care by €11.5m last year>

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