The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides some free dental treatment to certain citizens through the public health service. Services are provided by dentists employed by Local Health Offices in your area and by private dentists who have contracts with the HSE to provide certain services.
If you do not qualify for HSE services, then you may be treated by a private dental practitioner. Dentists must display private fees in a place where patients can view them before consultation. A single fee must apply for some procedures while the fees for others may be shown as a range, with a minimum and maximum clearly stated. Where a range of fees applies, it is not permitted to set a minimum price only.
The Dental Council has produced a Code of Practice relating to: Display of Private Fees in Dental Practices (pdf).
You may get free dental examinations under the Treatment Benefit scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection.
The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides access to dental treatment for adult medical card holders (over 16 years of age). Medical card holders are entitled to a free dental examination and two fillings in each calendar year as well as any extractions that are required. Free emergency dental treatment for relief of pain and sepsis is also available.
Most other treatments require prior approval and patients with special needs, high risk patients and those who have greater clinical needs receive priority. The National Oral Health Office issued Standard Operating Procedures to dentists in November 2011 to provide clearer guidance on the application of DTSS prior approval requests (for example, for dentures).
The DTSS provides treatment for periodontal/gum disease in cases where care is especially warranted. This includes clients who are pregnant, have diabetes or immuno-compromising conditions, or require relevant surgical procedures such as cardiac surgery and joint replacements. Approval for periodontal treatment may be given by the local Principal Dental Surgeon for these and other high risk or special needs groups.
Clinical Dental Technicians are dental healthcare professionals, registered with the Dental Council, who provide complete dentures and partial dentures directly to adult patients when the patient’s oral health is established through a recent visit to a dentist. They do not carry out work on natural teeth or on living tissue.
Clinical Dental Technicians who have a contract with the HSE can treat medical card holders under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, providing approved dentures and relines as well as denture repairs and additions.
The HSE provides free orthodontic treatment for those patients with the most severe orthodontic problems. The criteria used to decide whether a child qualifies for treatment in the HSE is determined by eligibility guidelines based on an international grading system called the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need.
HSE dental surgeons are trained in the guidelines for eligibility and so can
advise and refer you to the local HSE orthodontic unit for assessment if the
problem is sufficiently severe. The types of orthodontic problems that qualify
under the guidelines include front teeth that are buried and fail to emerge,
multiple missing teeth, very prominent front teeth or severe problems with the
bite or jaw development.
If you do not have a medical card and have to pay for dental services from a private practitioner, you may claim tax relief for certain specialised dental treatments. (Routine treatments such as extractions, scaling and filling of teeth and provision and repairing of artificial teeth and dentures are excluded from tax relief). Further information on how to claim tax relief for specific dental costs incurred by you whether for yourself, your spouse, your dependent child or a dependent relative are available in our document on taxation and medical expenses.
The HSE is obliged to provide dental services free of charge to:
Priority is usually given to children referred from child and school health services.
Dental services for children under 16 years of age who attend state primary schools, and are referred from child and school health services, are provided in HSE clinics and in primary schools.
Services for others who are entitled to dental treatment are provided in HSE clinics or by private practitioners who have agreements with the HSE. The HSE decides whether you will be treated by one of its dentists or by a private practitioner. If you are to be treated by a private practitioner, you can choose from the list of dentists who have agreements with the HSE to provide services.
Apply to your local health centre for further information.
The Irish Dental Association is the main representative body for general dental practitioners, dental specialists and HSE dental surgeons.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.