Dáil Éireann - Volume 512 - 07 December, 1999
Written Answers - Hospital Services.
Mr. Howlin Mr. Howlin
223. Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Health and Children if patients without medical card cover are entitled to public hospital services for the removal of wisdom teeth where this treatment is not available in private dental practices; if this service is available to patients in all health board areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25973/99]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): Current research in the UK suggests that a widespread practice has developed in the dental profession there of extracting wisdom teeth inappropriately. The research suggests that it would be more clinically appropriate to avoid extraction of wisdom teeth where they are free of pathology. Wisdom teeth may be extracted by a general den tal practitioner following the guidelines set down by the Dental Council, for example, as to the use of general anaesthetic where required, or the patient may be referred to a hospital where oral surgery services are provided.
Patients referred to hospital for the extraction of wisdom teeth have eligibility for public hospital services. However, hospital oral surgery services are not yet fully developed. Accordingly, many health boards have decided that the most equitable solution, pending further development of the services, is to confine hospital oral surgery services to priority cases and to medical card holders.
Extraction of wisdom teeth is not normally regarded as a priority treatment requirement and patients who are without medical cards are asked to make private arrangements with one of the dental hospitals or a suitable private practitioner. Where arrangements are so made with a private practitioner, insured persons may have eligibility under the dental treatment benefit scheme. Persons who do not have medical card entitlement may also take out private health insurance to safeguard them against costs in the event of elective hospital treatment.
Under the dental health action plan, I have approved a number of consultant oral surgeon posts for health boards and the boards concerned are endeavouring to fill existing vacancies. I also recently gave my consent to the setting up by the Dental Council of a register of dental specialists which would recognise a dental speciality in oral surgery. These developments will facilitate the creation and recruitment of a health board grade of specialist in oral surgery and will lead to a steady increase in the availability of oral surgery services nationally.
Dáil Éireann 512 Written Answers Hospital Services.