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).
Treatment Benefit Scheme
You may get free dental examinations under the Treatment Benefit scheme operated by the Department of Social Protection.
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 covered in each calendar year. For a filling on a tooth that has already been filled in the last 5 years, the claim form must detail why it is clinically necessary to repeat the filling.
Denture repairs, the control of haemorrhage and the issuing of prescriptions will be covered where the dentist is satisfied as to the clinical need.
All other treatments, including providing dentures, require the prior approval of the local HSE dental surgeon.
Clinical Dental Technicians
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.
Taxation and dental expenses
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:
- Medical card holders and their dependants, but only under certain circumstances
- People who have contracted Hepatitis C directly or indirectly from the use of Human Immunoglobulin-Anti-D or from the receipt within Ireland of any blood product or a blood transfusion and who have a Health Amendment Act Card
- Preschool children and school children attending State primary schools referred from child health service and school health service examinations
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.
How to apply
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.