Oral Health Services for Adults

Most general dental care for adults is provided by an estimated 1,700 or so dentists in private general practice. Patients with no State entitlement, or who choose to do so, have their treatment carried out on a purely private basis at fees agreed between themselves and the dentist. A small number of private health insurers in Ireland provide limited cover for dental procedures. Those who have no State entitlements and no private dental insurance cover may claim tax relief on certain non-routine treatments.

There are two State schemes which entitle adults patients to treatment by private dentists in general practice: the Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme (DTBS) run by the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs, and the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS) run by the Health Service Executive.

Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme (DTBS)

The Dental Treatment Benefit Scheme (DTBS) may be accessed by employees, retired people, and their dependent spouse/partner, subject to a qualifying number of Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions. Dental treatment is provided by private dentists on the DTBS panel. Over 90% of dentists in general practice in Ireland have contracts under the DTBS scheme.

The DTBS has historically provided fixed subsidies for annual basic oral examination, diagnosis and gum treatment, six monthly scale and polishing, and standard treatments such as gum treatment, fillings, extractions, dentures and root canal therapy as required by the patient. In June 2005, the DTBS was extended to allow treatment in other EU member states, at rates equivalent to those paid for similar treatments carried out in Ireland (or the amount actually paid if lower).

In 2010, due to budgetary constraints, the DTBS coverage will be restricted to annual basic dental examinations. Information on the qualifying conditions for the DTBS and the treatments covered is available on the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs website.

Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS)

Under the Dental Treatment Services Scheme (DTSS), all adult medical card holders (aged 16 years and over) can avail of a range of dental treatments from private dentists who hold DTSS contracts with the HSE. Just under 30% of the population in Ireland hold medical cards.
The routine dental treatments covered by the DTSS include:

  • examination
  • extractions
  • fillings
  • scalings
  • polishing
  • removal/amputation of roots
  • root treatment (front 6 teeth top and bottom)
  • x-rays
  • partial dentures
  • full dentures

Treatment is free to the patient and the dentist claims the full cost of service (as determined in the DTSS schedule of fees) from the National Shared Services Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme (formerly the General Medical Services (Payments) Board).

The majority of private general dental practitioners in Ireland are on the HSE panel of DTSS dentists. As of 2009, 1,382 general dental practitioners were on the DTSS panel.

In 2010, due to budgetary constraints, the HSE put in place measures to limit DTSS expenditures at 2008 levels.