The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides some free dental treatment 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 can use a private dental service.
Dental services for adults
Treatment Benefit Scheme
If you have paid enough social insurance contributions you can get free dental examinations and a subsidised scale and polish once a year under the Treatment Benefit Scheme.
Medical card holders
The Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) provides access to dental treatment for adult medical card holders (aged 16 or over).
Medical card holders are entitled to a free dental examination in each calendar year, as well as any extractions that are required. One first-stage endodontic (root canal) treatment is also available each year for teeth at the front of the mouth.
Two fillings are free in each calendar year. For a filling on a tooth that has already been filled in the last 5 years, the dentist must seek approval from the local HSE Principal Dental Surgeon detailing why it is clinically necessary to repeat the filling.
Denture repairs, the control of haemorrhage and the issuing of prescriptions will be covered where required.
All other treatments, including providing dentures, require the prior approval of the local HSE Principal Dental Surgeon.
Dental services for children
Dental services for children are provided by dentists in local HSE dental clinics. This service is accessed through screening appointments in your child's primary school.
Routine dental treatment
All children in certain classes in primary school and children with special needs are offered an appointment for a free dental exam. A follow up appointment will be made with your local HSE Dental Clinic if needed.
Children outside of these classes will only be seen by the HSE Dental Clinic for emergency treatment.
Emergency Dental Care for Children
All children aged under 16 years of age are entitled to attend for emergency treatment. Call your local HSE Dental Clinic for dental emergency treatment.
The HSE provides free orthodontic treatment for children who have the most severe orthodontic problems. The criteria used to decide whether a child qualifies is based on an international grading system called the Index of Orthodontic Treatment Need.
HSE dental surgeons can advise on eligibility and refer you to the local HSE orthodontic unit for assessment if appropriate. 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 qualify for HSE services, you can use a private dental service.
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).
Tax relief on dental expenses
If you 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 is available in our document on taxation and medical expenses.
Clinical Dental Technicians
Clinical Dental Technicians are dental healthcare professionals, registered with the Dental Council. They provide complete dentures and partial dentures directly to adult patients who have recently been assessed by 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.
How to make a complaint against a Dentist
You must first make a complaint directly to the staff in the dental surgery involved. They should give you full details of the complaints procedure and try to sort out your complaint. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you can contact the Dental Complaints Resolution Service who will work with you and the dentist to resolve the complaint.
How to apply
Your local health centre can provide a list of dentists who treat medical card holders. Dentists who offer services to medical card holders are listed as taking part in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme.
The Irish Dental Association is the main representative body for general dental practitioners, dental specialists and HSE dental surgeons.
The Dental Council has a list of registered Clinical Dental Technicians (pdf).