The HSE is collating a breakdown of the number of dentists employed and I will forward this information to the Deputy as soon as it is available.
The HSE has no central policy to recruit additional dentists. However, the current Employment Control Framework for the health sector gives the HSE some flexibility in relation to filling posts in order to protect front line services in so far as possible while still achieving the required staff reduction targets.
The Public Dental Service of the HSE provides services to schoolchildren aged up to 16 years and special care dentistry. The schoolchildren's service is focused on providing an emergency service and targeting children in key classes at key stages in their development. The HSE endeavours to provide the same level of service throughout the country but this may not always be possible. While it is not possible at present to quantify these differences, this issue is being addressed in a re-organisation of dental services which is underway. The new structure will support a unified approach through a reduction in the number of service areas and the maximisation of resources within each area. Additionally, as part of the restructuring, 5 Assistant National Oral Health Leads will be appointed who will focus on the development of standards and consistent practices across all HSE dental services, including preventative care services.