In the last 2 years Mayo has lost 24 percent of its dentists that service medical cardholders.
Figures which I have received from the department of health show that across the state we are seeing a worrying decline in the number of dentists serving people with medical cards.
Not all counties are impacted equally. Mayo is one of the worst hit losing 12 in just two years, dropping from 50 in 2019 to 38 in January 2021. Roscommon has stayed the same at sixteen and Galway has increased from 115 to 119.
Between 2017 and 2020, state spending on dental care for medical card patients nationwide decreased by 30 per cent, from €5.5 million to €3.8 million.
This has led to an unprecedented number of dentists withdrawing from the official treatment scheme. Across the state since 2019, there are 178 less dentists in the system. This represents almost a 12 percent drop.
The shortage of dentists needs to be addressed by providing additional places at third level to encourage students to enter the profession. As an immediate measure, Government needs to undertake meaningful discussions with dental representatives enabling necessary changes to the current medical card scheme.
The underfunding and neglect of oral health and dentistry by governments has been compounded further by pressures faced in dealing with COVID-19. Children, people with disabilities, and families on low incomes are victims of the failure of government to address the problems of access to basic dental care. This has to be addressed as a matter of urgency.