Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 20 Feb 2002

Vol. 549 No. 1

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Service.

Bernard J. Durkan


62 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Health and Children the total national waiting list for orthodontic treatment; the number of patients in categories 1, 2 and 3 who have received treatment in the past four years; the number of patients in each category who have had to seek private treatment; the extent to which he has attempted to evaluate the long-term implications arising from neglect in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5875/02]

The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons is the responsibility of the health boards and information regarding numbers placed on treatment waiting lists is maintained by the boards.

The chief executive officers of the health boards have informed me of the following information on the number of patients receiving orthodontic treatment:

Total Number of Patients in Treatment



June 2001


September 2001


December 2001


This table shows an increase of 3,086 patients in orthodontic treatment at the end of the December 2001 quarter when compared with the corresponding figure in May 1999. I expect that the number of patients in orthodontic treatment will continue to increase as the measures that I have taken to improve orthodontic services take effect. The chief executive officers of the health boards have informed me that the breakdown of this information according to category of severity is not available. Similarly, the number of patients who opt to avail of treatment from private practitioners, independent of the health boards, is not available.
Structural changes are being introduced into the orthodontic service such as the creation of the grade of specialist in orthodontics, the development of specialist training programmes and the creation of an auxiliary grade of orthodontic therapist to work in the orthodontic area. Six dentists from the Eastern Regional Health Authority, North-Eastern Health Board and South-Eastern Health Board commenced their training last October for specialist in orthodontics qualifications. My Department has provided €0.541million in 2002 for specialist in orthodontics training. Furthermore, three dentists from the Western Health Board and North-Eastern Health Board are already in specialist training for orthodontics and this brings the total number of dentists in such training to nine. Discussions on providing an additional training course to commence this year are also under way.
My Department has funded the appointment of a director of specialist training for the Irish committee for specialist training in dentistry through the post graduate medical and dental board. The director has taken up duty and will play a pivotal role in assisting the different agencies involved in dental specialist training programmes. In addition, my Department has also funded the recruitment of a Professor in Orthodontics at Cork University Dental School to facilitate the development of an approved training programme leading to specialist qualifications in orthodontics. Capital funding of approximately €1.27 million was also provided to the orthodontics unit there for its refurbishment to an appropriate standard.
In the short-term, I have funded an orthodontic initiative to ease current pressures on the system. Additional funding of €6.729 million was approved for orthodontic services last year of which €4.698 million was to fund an initiative on orthodontic waiting lists. This is enabling health boards to, among other things, recruit additional staff for the service.
The chief executive officers have informed me that at the end of the December 2001 quarter, the total number of patients on the waiting list for treatment was 11,890. This is a reduction of 1,613 in comparison with the corresponding figure at the end of the June 2001 quarter.
Guidelines issued by my Department prioritise patients according to severity of need. As a result, I am satisfied that the 17,295 patients currently in treatment reflect those who are most in need. As the number of patients in orthodontic treatment increase, services will be provided to patients who would benefit from, rather than be in severe need of, orthodontic treatment.