The root of the problem Печат
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Автор Roisin Burke   

По материали от Irish Independent

Dentistry is developing hugely as a sector and many more graduates are needed to keep pace with this growth.

Roisin Burke reports

DESPITE the fact that there are more registered dentists in Ireland now than 10 years ago, a manpower crisis in the profession is imminent, accordingto the Irish Dental Association.


"We are not producing enough dentistry graduates for our current or future needs," says Ciara Murphy, CEO of the Irish DentalAssociation. Already, the shortage of orthodontists is affecting the public dental service and, similarly, postgraduate places are not sufficient for our requirements. Dentistry graduates come from two sources in Ireland

- the Dublin Dental School and Hospital on the Tfinity College Dublin (TCD) campus and University College Cork (UCC), which respectively produce 40 dental science and 42 dental surgery graduates each year. Currently the Dental Council decides what qualifications from outside Ireland are acceptable in order to practise here. However, the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive is to be introduced in October and an agency under its remitwill then decide on acceptability to practise in Ireland and examine proficiency in English. There are no formal linguistic or other tests in order to practise dentistry in Ireland at present.


Gritical shortage


The shortfall oflrish dentists is made up by professionals from the UK EU and elsewhere. While this fills the

current gap, if measures aren't taken to increase the number of national graduates now, the shortage could be critical by 2015, according to available figures. There are currently 2,4,09 dentists on the register of dentists, an increase of

12.5pc in the past decade. Of these, 880 are female, making up almost athird of the profession. There are two areas of advanced specialism in Ireland - dental surggryand orthodontistry, both accredited by the Dental Council. There axe 1,300 dentists in general Private practice and the regional Health Boards employ approximately 370, including a small number of orthodontists. About 20 dentists work in hospitals as dental surgeons or in other, speciffied areas. Approximately 28 dentists work full-time in the dental faculties of TCD or UCC and, in 2663, eight Dentists served full time in the armed forces. Dentists who work for the Health Service Executive in the public healthcare system work on a salary, which means a lower income than private practice, but this option has other benefits. Women with families sometimes prefer the nine-to-five nature of public healthcare

'We are not producing enough dentistry graduates for our current or future needs'

 CIARA MURPHY: CEO, Irish Dental Association


dentistry work as well as the flexible working conditions such as job-sharing.

Higher profile

Awareness of oral health is now far greater than it was, with 69pc of Irish people visiting their dentist annually for check-ups. The cosmetic aspect of dentistry has become massively popular in the past five years, particularly teeth whitening. The cost ofgetting crowns and bridge work done here has led to the promotion of treatment abroad, as has happened with other medical treatments and cosmetic surgery. This has predictably resulted in concerns about the quality of such treatment. Approximately lpc of Irish patients seek dental treatment abroad, mainly for bridge work. Murphy outlines the problems that may arise with this: "Usually, dentists will first check if a patient's gums are stable. If there is any gum disbase at all, the gums need to be prepped. This could take six months and needs to be carefully planned. Many people returnto Ireland and find the work done is not suitable for their needs. The bite might be uncomfortable or the work might not be good." So is there any recourse at this point? 'Absolutely none," she says. "We've no issue with consumer choice, but it [denta] treatment abroadl has to be suitable for the patient's needs."


On the home front, a new approach to dental treatment was started by an Irish firm two years ago. The Smiles Dental Spa concept is unique to Ireland, according to the manager of the new Galway branch, Anna Eustace Smiles claims to offer'the services of a dental clinic with the convenience of a retail outlet and up to 20pc reduction in price compared to regular dental practices'. The layout ofthe outlets is boutique style, featuring comfortable fu rnishings and a bright, clean environment. There are televisions placed in view ofeach dental chair, offering a distraction for the patient during treatment. Smiles offers afree consultation and dental check-up, after which you get a list of what work might be needed and how much it costs. 'You get the prices first and a personalised treatment plan. You can take this away, think about it and decide whether to come back and have work done," explains Eustace. Murphy says there is a query about what is permitted under Section 50 of the Dentists Act, which prohibits corporate bodies from practising dentistry. She says a strict interpretation of 'corporate bodies' could include Smiles. "We're looking for clarification on this." ' One of the lesser-known but significant new oral health treatments are implants. These are an alternative to removable false teeth, whereby the teeth are implanted in the bone and screwed into place. Another interesting development to arrive Ireland is the use of computeraided design for very high levels of accuracy in shaping crowns. There are changes happening in many areas of dentistry at the moment in terms of the workplace, gender balance and, of course, technology. For dentists, staying abreast of these is key, as is lobbying for more undergraduate and postgraduate dentistry Places.

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