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New Research on Oral Health Policy in Ireland

04 April 2022

Oral Health Policy

New research has just been published which examines the key factors influencing oral health policy, development and implementation in Ireland during the period 1994 – 2021:

 ‘Toothless’—the absence of political priority for oral health: a case study of Ireland 1994– 2021 (2022) Úna McAuliffe, Helen Whelton, Máiréad Harding and Sara Burke.

The paper provides a very informative background, especially for politicians who need to be fully briefed on the oral health system in Ireland.  It highlights the lack of awareness of the oral health inequalities which exist in Ireland (especially among children, the elderly, and those with special needs) and how issues such as orthodontics are getting greater airtime.  

The authors of the paper emphasise the urgency/political priority of oral health required in order not to miss the window of opportunity in implementing the National Oral Health Policy Smile agus Sláinte.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently highlighted the work of the Chief Dental Officer, Dr Dympna Kavanagh, including oral health policy, when answering a Parliamentary Question 22nd March 2022

The Northern Ireland Executive published an informative report ‘A practical guide to Policy Making in Northern Ireland’ (2016) which discusses timescales for policymaking including:

Publication of Policy

Development of Legislation (if necessary)


It noted ‘And when legislation is required to implement a policy, this can add considerably to the time taken from initial idea to implementation’.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly answered a Parliamentary Question 24th March 2021 regarding the development of new legislation to replace the Dentists Act 1985. You can read his response HERE 

The Department of Health previously stated that implementation of the policy was delayed due to the Covid 19 pandemic and the requirement to focus on Covid 19 issues.

Leadership and Communication with a range of stakeholders are highlighted in this paper as essential for the implementation phase -  before the impact and benefits will be felt by the public.

Sharing information and sharing successes along the way will help to motivate the stakeholders and to ensure the best personal oral health for all in Ireland.