Dental Care in the Republic of Ireland

woman brushing her teeth

Dental care is one of the fundamental elements of care. Along with emergency treatment, dental care is often provided at a reduced cost as part of public health, with relatively fewer overheads as the health and well-being of many people can be greatly affected by the quality of their teeth, making local clinics like this dentist Navan a linchpin in the service.

In Ireland, dental care is focused on children and has had an interesting effect on the dental industry overall. Here is a brief rundown of how these public services are run in Ireland.

The Origins

Ideas behind public health originated all the way back to the founding of the Irish Free State in 1922. There was widespread disgruntlement at the limited access to healthcare to a wealthy elite. The ambition of expanding this care was limited by the highly restricted budget of the young nation, which led to a strong emphasis on simple treatment and healthcare targeting the most vulnerable and youngest members of society, which has been continued to the modern day.

adult woman teeth being checked up

How children’s dental needs are managed

Treatment is available to all children under the age of 16.

There are options for children to attend check-ups directly at local HSE-registered clinics, but the vast majority of check-ups are performed via the school dental programme, which systematically screens and provides recommendations for future treatment on school grounds. This results in a higher rate of screening and allows dental care to reach the most vulnerable members of the community.

The HSE and children’s emergency treatment are free at the point of service and available at approved clinics and hospitals.

Adult dental care

Adult dental care is relatively limited; its most widespread service is the PRSI dental scheme, which entitles insured workers and those who are retired and have made contributions to a dental check-up every 12 months. This should be supplemented with an additional check-up.

Free check-ups have to be carried out by a dentist registered with the Department of Social Protection panel; this is a widely held accreditation, so most clinics are equipped to carry out these checks.

Medical cards

A medical card entitles free dental care on a range of dental treatments. There are a significant number of Irish citizens entitled to medical cards either due to complicated medical conditions or difficult financial situations. The issue is that dentists who accept medical card patients can be few and far between, leading to significant travel.

There have been several attempts to increase the adoption of medical card patients in private clinics, but the compensation that surgeries receive has not been adjusted to meet inflation, creating significant resistance and friction.

Urgent care

From April 2010 onwards, urgent care was included in the HSE mandate, allowing adult patients whose conditions are deemed high-risk urgent free dental care. This assessment has to be provided by an HSE-registered dental team and is subject to approval. The decision is based on the effect of the symptoms, how much discomfort there is and its chances of risking future health and well-being.


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