Thursday, 19 January 2023
Public Dental Services: Motion [Private Members]
Réada Cronin (Kildare North, Sinn Fein)
There are so many people in north Kildare in agony with their teeth. Anyone depending on the medical card scheme is back to Dickensian times. For a supposedly modern state to leave somebody in this situation is degrading and perverse. With dental health affecting heart and brain health, we are storing up problems for the future for our young schoolchildren and others who are facing delays in the dental health crisis. It is impossible for anybody with a medical card to find a dentist in north Kildare. It is worse than ever with so many dentists retiring.
I had a constituent in north Kildare last year who had the points to do dentistry but who could not get a place. I would like the Minister to consider what my colleague Deputy Conway-Walsh said because we have a growing population and need more Irish dentists trained. Therefore, we support the broad thrust of the motion. I thank the Regional Group for raising this important matter. In the broader context of the motion and the effective collapse of the dental treatment service scheme, I want to raise with the Minister the circumstances of a vulnerable group of people, namely the men and women who cannot communicate verbally or who have cognitive impairment. It chills me to the bone that there are men and women who are not being examined regularly by dentists in nursing homes. They could be in agony with their teeth but unable to tell anybody, by speech or otherwise.
Last year, I asked the Minister to give me a list of all the dental examinations carried out in State-run nursing homes in each of the preceding five years, well before Covid. The reply from the HSE was that it does not keep the data. The service provided by the dental treatment service scheme collapsed. I also asked whether antibiotics were being relied on and repeated as opposed to giving dental care per se, with all the implications for antibiotic resistance. The reply was that there was a lack of dentists and that dentists were having difficulties accessing nursing homes during Covid. We know that. It was also stated that oral and dental infections need to be managed by accessing a dentist to have the required procedure undertaken. What dentist? It was stated the repeated use of antibiotics without accessing appropriate dental treatment contributes to antimicrobial resistance and is not the optimum management. This is something we all know. Beyond the broader context of this motion and its concerns, we need to examine what is happening, or not happening, as seems to be case, with dental care in our nursing homes. I ask the Minister to consider this urgently.