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News / May 19, 2021

Dentists quit medical card scheme following COVID-19

by Gaby Bissett

The chief dental officer for Northern Ireland has confirmed it is 'business as usual' for dental practices in light of new local lockdownsA significant amount of dentists are dropping out of a scheme to treat medical card patients. 

This is according to new figures which were unveiled during a parliamentary question.

The data suggests 250 dentists have stopped treating patients with a medical card. Additionally, there are 600 fewer dentists operating in the scheme.

Cut numbers

A report in RTE suggests in counties such as Kerry and Clare, the number of dentists have almost halved.

And this has been slashed by more than 40% in Sligo, Leitrim and parts of Dublin.

This comes as dentists say they have ‘lost faith’ in the Department of Health in its ability to listen to the profession.


At its AGM this month, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) said dentistry needs to prioritise the patient.

Dr Anne O’Neill is the outgoing president of the association.

‘Over the past number of years, the Irish Dental Association has repeatedly challenged the department to discuss the problems within the sector,’ she said.

‘Most recently with the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), which has not happened.

‘So what we need to see now is action. Because up to this point, dentists have lost faith in the ability of the Department of Health to listen to the dental profession and bring about real and substantive change for the good of patients. We must ensure that it is the patient who is prioritised.’

‘Irreparable damage’

She added: ‘It is important to state that their absence means a lack of early intervention, a lack of early diagnosis and treatment of dental diseases to both children and vulnerable adults. Some of which will also result in the loss of teeth for life.

‘This has led to significant issues. Not least the fact that irreparable damage is left untreated in our child population.

‘If we are truly interested in providing a patient-centred system to support oral health, we must keep the needs of the patient in focus when considering any changes to the existing system.’

In addition, she reemphasised the association’s call for full collective bargaining rights on behalf of its private dentist members.