Thousands of children missing out on routine dental checks in Ireland

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Thousands of children are missing out on routine dental checks in Ireland due to backlogs and shortages of dental professionals.

Data suggests that the number of children attending routine appointments is 35% lower than pre-pandemic levels. Around 50,000 children have missed out on dental check-ups, which should be provided through school programmes, according to the HSE. The primary reason for the delays is backlogs amassed during the Covid-19 crisis.

In the last quarter of 2019, over 151,000 schoolchildren were invited to attend dental examinations or access preventative dental treatments. This number dropped dramatically to 55,000 during the same period in 2020. There have been improvements since restrictions ended but numbers are still way below pre-pandemic levels. In the last quarter of 2022, 99,000 children had routine checks and preventative treatments.

The situation varies from one region to another and new data has revealed stark differences between service levels in different parts of the country. In South Dublin and Roscommon, for example, numbers are higher than pre-pandemic levels but in Galway, the number of children accessing routine and preventative services is almost 80% lower than in 2019.

The HSE has acknowledged the backlogs, stating that there has been significant disruption, which has contributed to delays in delivering school programmes. Due to the backlogs, the HSE has prioritised children in sixth class and those who have additional needs.

As well as difficulties running school programmes, HSE data also showed that waiting times for other services, including orthodontic care, have increased. There are currently more than 10,000 children waiting for treatment, including 2,000 children who have been on the waiting list for over 4 years.

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