06 May

Irish dentists issue warning over ‘grave threat’ to oral health

The Irish Dental Association has issued a warning over the ‘grave threat’ facing the nation’s oral health. 

As practices across the UK and Ireland remain closed during the Coronavirus lockdown, the IDA has suggested that the crisis will take its toll on patients for years to come.

One of the most significant problems is the potential closure of practices across the country. A recent survey conducted by the IDA revealed that almost 80% of the 329 private dentists polled feared that their businesses were at high or very high risk of failure. Almost 95% of owners predicted that their earnings would fall by at least 40% in the next 6-18 months, while over 50% expected a drop of 80%. Nearly 70% of participants suggested that it would be struggle to survive for longer than 3 months and 86% of clinics have laid employees off.

Fintan Hourihan, chief executive of the Irish Dental Association, said that the COVID-19 outbreak poses a “grave threat” to the nation’s health. Oral health is a critical factor in overall health, and if patients cannot access routine care in the long-term due to practice shortages, or urgent treatment during lockdown, there is a real risk that standards of oral health will deteriorate. 

Mr Hourihan has called for urgent support for dentists to prevent practices from closing. If a large number of clinics are lost, patients will face extended waiting times and they may also be required to travel to see a dentist, which may not be viable for the elderly, those with health problems and patients who don’t drive. There is also a risk that a shortage of high street practices will contribute to increased pressure on hospital and community-based services, including Accident and Emergency departments and GP surgeries.