Perfect Storm Events put Dental Screening Services for Primary School Children in Serious Jeopardy in Meath
Statistics released to Aontú Cllr Emer Tóibín show that there are currently more than 16,000 school children waiting on a basic dental check up in Co Meath. Cllr Tóibín, who previously secured €100,000 for dental surgery in Meath and Louth says the government and specifically the Minister for Health must intervene in the crisis.
Speaking today Cllr Emer Tóibín said:
"First of all, there is clearly a major crisis in terms of the number of dentists in Co Meath. 3 positions still remained unfilled for over 2 years. Data released to us by the HSE shows that there are now over 16,682 children currently on dental waiting lists in the county. We are storing up huge dental problems for our children in the years ahead as a consequence of delayed. missed and cancelled appointments.
Aontú Cllr in Meath, Emer Tóibín confirms that this is not a recent crisis but has been building over the last 3 to 4 years with alarmingly high numbers of children who have never seen a dentist at all yet. Between backlogs, rollovers from the year before, and a derisory budget for one of the biggest and fastest growing populations in the country, there are primary school going children that may not get seen until they are in 6th class.
Despite intentions by the HSE to target all primary school classes for dental services – there simply has never been the ability or resources to deliver upon this objective. The target in the early 2000s was to reach out to children in 3 classes. However, those targets were never met and the targets were reduced to only two classes, 1st and 6th. Then first class unfortunately had to be dropped from the 2019-2020 school year onwards in Louth and Meath due to a shortage of dentist according to the HSE. Worringly, this process has been further exacerbated and has almost ground to a halt as Covid has been added to the mix of obstacles preventing the necessary screening services being made available to this young cohort.
Finally medical card holders in need of dental treatment are also drawing from the same pool of public dentists. Due to the withdrawal of private dentists from public HSE contracts, public dentists in Meath must divide their time between primary school children and medical card holders. Something has to give and unfortunately our children are paying the price. We are not training enough dentists in this country according to one source. Many foreign-born students leave once their training has completed. More and more dentists are leaving public practice as it is no longer viable or attractive as a career choice.
On their first birthday in Britain and Scotland, children are seen by their dentists and every year after that. We must aspire to a similar model as the cost of not providing adequate screening and treatment services to our primary school children will be far far higher in the long run.