Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has said the waiting lists for Health Service Executive (HSE) dental services are failing to deliver for children and this is putting their oral health at risk with 16,603 currently waiting between 6 months and a year for an assessment, and 1,500 waiting for treatment. The Sinn Féin TD said the current delays  mean that many children are reaching the 16 years of age cut off limit and are missing out on their chance as they are no longer eligible for orthodontic treatment.

Eligibility for dental services is a statutory entitlement under the Health Acts. Up to 1 million children up to the age of 15yrs are eligible for HSE Dental services and are all provided free of charge. The clinical services provided by the HSE include: Emergency Care; targeted preventative and treatment services for children; planned care for children and adults with special care needs; and hospital services including General Anaesthesia.

Deputy Crowe said:

“Children have legal entitlements to three routine dental screenings, however, figures revealed by the Health Service Executive have shown that in practice children in CHO7 area are not being provided with the necessary screening and checks.

“In the CHO7 area which covers Tallaght, and other parts of Dublin South West, West Wicklow and parts of Kildare, there were 16,603 children on waiting between 6 months and a year for an assessment in March of this year, and 1,500 waiting roughly the same time for treatment.

“This is completely unacceptable. The oral health of these children is being threatened because the government refuse to invest in a dental service that can deliver for children.

“Many parents, who can ill afford the cost, are being forced to go down the expensive private dentist route for services that are supposed to be free because of the direct impact these delays are having on their child or children.

“For years the public dental service suffered cut after cut and this, combined with a serious lack of resources, is what is causing the huge waiting lists and backlog.

“The delay in the current scheme also means that many children, once they reach the 16 years of age limit, are missing out on their chance because they are no longer eligible for orthodontic treatment. This can have a huge impact on a child and can impact on their confidence, health, and well-being as they move into adulthood.

“These HSE figures clearly show that the current dental system is not delivering for tens of thousands of children and may are not getting their legal entitlements when it comes to health. We need to see targeted investment in dental services across the state, our children and young people cannot be left behind when it comes to oral health.

“Helping children develop healthy habits to care for their teeth while they are young is hugely important. These habits can set the stage for good oral health care throughout their entire life. They can also help avoid many of the problems that result from poor oral health, including gum disease and tooth decay.”