Dentistry in Ireland has an average cost of €1,200 per person per year and has been growing since the financial crisis, according to a report published on Monday by the National Centre for Health Statistics.
The report, which is based on information collected from the Dentist of the Year Awards, also revealed the cost of dental work for patients in rural Ireland was higher than for residents of metropolitan areas.
The authors of the report, Dr. Mark Llewellyn and Dr. Paul Murphy, said the cost was “exceptionally high” and was not reflective of the level of care provided.
“Dentistry in rural areas of the country has not grown since the recession, while the cost is extremely high,” Dr Llewyn said.
“Dentists in urban areas have had a clear and noticeable recovery, and have been increasing their rates of patient-care.”
Dr Murphy said the high cost of care was due to “unusual” conditions, such as infections, which “can occur as a result of the dental equipment being improperly used.”
The report found dental care in rural and regional Ireland had risen from 5.3% in 2004 to 9.9% in 2016, and was on track to reach 11.1% by 2020.
In rural Ireland, the percentage of patients who reported being treated by a dentist declined from 22.6% in 2003 to 19.9%, but this rose to 22.9 in 2020, up from 15.1%.
“Dental care in regions is often provided with high standards of care and is managed in a high-level of care, with a high level of respect for the health and well-being of the patient, which can be seen in the level and quality of care received by the community,” the authors wrote.
The report also noted that dentists’ experience was “underdeveloped” and “generally poor”.
“There is no national standardised dental assessment or assessment protocol, and the process for obtaining the results of a test can be time-consuming and stressful for dentists,” the report said.
It noted that many dentists were not aware of the role of a dentist in a particular case, or of the requirements for a dental assessment, and that many had not taken part in a clinical assessment in recent years.
The National Centre of Health Statistics (NCHS) said there were “significant barriers” to obtaining a national dental assessment in Ireland, with many dentist training centres in rural, regional and urban areas.
The number of dental schools, training centres and dentists has been decreasing over the last 20 years, with just 10% of dentists trained in 2015 being accredited to practice in the future, compared with 25% in 2009.
The NCHS said the number of dentist graduates was decreasing and the number needed to have a general dentistry qualification had increased over the past decade.
Dr Murphy said that while the costs of dental care were rising, “there is an urgent need for dental care for people in remote areas and for people who do not have access to dental care.”
He said there was a need for more dental education in rural communities and for dentistry centres to provide more information about their services.
“The report shows that many rural areas do not yet have the skills and the training in dental assessment and clinical assessment that they need to meet the needs of their communities,” he said.