Services for Children and Special Needs Groups
Dental treatment for children under 16 years of age and for special needs groups is provided directly by the HSE Public Dental Service. As of April 2008, the whole time equivalent of 376 dentists, 56 hygienists, 555 dental nurses and 5 dental technicians were employed by the HSE Public Dental Service.
Dental services to children are mainly channeled through school screening: Children in national school are screened on a regular basis, the frequency of which varies from area to area, and provided with preventive and other necessary care as required. The classes targeted for school screening vary among the 32 Local Health Offices (LHOs). In addition to children, the HSE Public Dental Service gives priority to special needs groups (e.g., patients with mental or physical disabilities, those in long-term institutional care, the medically compromised, travellers, refugees, etc.).
Orthodontic treatment is provided in accordance with HSE guidelines on eligibility. The orthodontic service in Ireland is currently being restructured to try to deal with the long waiting lists. An estimated 40% of registered orthodontists (WTE as of April 2008) are in the service of the HSE.
Children who do not avail of the public dental service for either routine care or orthodontic treatment can go to private dental practitioners, paediatric dentists or private orthodontists for their treatment. In these cases, parents must pay the full cost of care at fees agreed with the practitioner. Private health insurance or tax relief may be applicable to certain dental treatments.