Dentists label medical card system a "disgrace to both patients and dentists”

Dentists say they are pulling too many teeth due to austerity cuts

Dentists label medical card system a "disgrace to both patients and dentists”

An illustrated picture showing a model of a set of teeth in front of a dentist treating a patient,30-06-2014. Image: Stefan Sauer/DPA/PA Images

Dentists are warning that the medical card dental scheme is forcing them to pull too many teeth.

A new survey of dentists around the country has found that a whopping 97% have no confidence in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS).

The study, carried out by the Irish Dental Association (IDA), found that 96% of dentists believe the scheme is preventing them from providing adequate care to vulnerable patients.

Three-out-of-four meanwhile, have warned they would like to quit the scheme.

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, IDA chief executive Fintan Hourihane said the current system is "a disgrace to both patients and dentists.”

He said the survey reveals an "alarming level of anger and frustration" among dentists.

"I think what we will see is large numbers of dentists will stop working with this scheme," he said.

"Ultimately that will mean that more medical card patients are going to have to travel further for care.

"It is just simply not appropriate. Dentists aren't comfortable with it and patients are losing out."

He said that unilateral cuts imposed by the HSE in 2010 have seen a range of procedures removed from the scheme - with medical card patients now restricted to two fillings a year, one oral examination and unlimited extractions.

The cuts removed important oral health procedures including 'scale and polish' and root canals.

"Unfortunately what we are now seeing is - because there is an unlimited number of extractions - teeth are no longer being saved, they are being extracted," said Mr Hourihane.

The IDA is warning that the number of patients eligible for medical card dental care has risen by 24% to 1,340,412, while the number of treatments funded by the HSE has dropped by 24%.

The IDA said the cutbacks have led to a 41% in the number of surgical extractions - and a 12% rise in routine extractions.

He said the scheme is 24 years old and unfit for purpose and called on the Health Minister to resume contract talks with dentists "as a matter of urgency."

He said the next budget must include a commitment to a new dental medical card scheme that focuses on prevention rather than treatment.

"Until that is in place the costs of poor dental health will continue to be borne by the most disadvantaged in society,” he said.