Our blog today is a guide to dental entitlements for patients

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Our blog today  is a guide to dental  entitlements for patients. . We often get phone calls from new and existing patients enquiring what treatment is covered by the Government schemes at our practice , and what is available at the HSE Clinics and the two Dental Hospitals. . Below we have tried to cover the treatments available for free at a general dentist, the services provided by the public dental services and the treatments that are tax deductible.

So tomorrow morning you wake up and decide to do something about your New Years resolution to get your dental issues  sorted, what are your options? For most adults the only viable option is to go to a private dentist. The public dental service deals almost exclusively with children and special needs patients.

If you are a resident in a nursing home and are unable to travel to a local surgery , then you or the Director of Nursing needs to contact the local Principal Dental Officer in the local HSE dental Clinic . The Principal Dental Officer will assess the situation and either send out a dentist from the Public Dental service or try to find a local dentist in a local practice who is willing to call out to the nursing home . It is not a very satisfactory situation , but until the new Oral Health Strategy is formulated and ratified , this situation will continue .

If you are willing, it is possible to go to the Dublin Dental Hospital A&E. This involves  turning up at the clinic and taking a number in the queque a The A&E will treat the cause of the pain and will assess your suitability for treatment by a dental student. If you are deemed suitable you may be placed on the undergraduate waiting list if there is space available. There is no guarantee that you would receive  any treatment other than relief of pain. There is a charge for all treatment but it is less if you are being treated by a student.

If you choose to make an appointment with a private dentist what happens next? They will usually ask a few basic questions to work out what you may be entitled to. I will deal firstly with patients with a medical card.

When you apply for a medical card there is a wait time while the application is processed. Once approved you will receive a letter with your number advising you that your card will be issued shortly. Occasionally we have patients who arrive for treatment before the actual card is issued. Unfortunately until the number is registered on the HSE computer system the number is not valid. Over the past few  years this time period has varied from two to eight weeks. Once the number is registered and the card is issued you are able to attend a private dentist.

A patient is entitled to one exam and two fillings in a calender year. All extractions are covered. Root canal treatments on the front teeth (incisors and canines) and dentures are allowed subject to approval by the Principal  Dental Surgeon in each HSE area. This approval can take up to 3 weeks but mostly is 7/10 days. Cleaning is no longer allowed unless the patient is pregnant or medically compromised and in these cases it also must be approved by the Principal Dental Surgeon . A patient is only entitled to have new dentures once every 5 years and a tooth can only be filled for free once in 5 years. All of this information can be found on the link below.  The scheme is very limited and places no emphasis on prevention.


If a patient doesn’t have a medical card, they may be covered for an exam because of their P.R.S.I. contributions. There are specific requirements to qualify. A person must be employed, self employed people are not covered as they pay a lower rate of PRSI. If employed your eligibility is determined by age.  As a rough guide we advise that under 25′s must have approximately 3 years of contributions and over 25′s need about 5 years. It is possible to for the patient to check online with the link below but when a patient makes an appointment we email  dental benefits in the Department of social Welfare and check eligibility on the patients behalf. A patient is entitled to one exam in a 12 month period.


There are also some treatments which qualify for tax relief.  These treatments are

  • Orthodontics
  • Bridges
  • Crowns
  • Veneers
  • Root Canal Treatment
  • Periodontal Treatment
  • Surgical Extraction of a Wisdom Tooth

As you can see the Government schemes are very limited and from cradle to grave , patients need to be prepared to pay themselves to look after their dental health