Treatments available from NHS dentists in Northern Ireland are to be extensively restricted under proposals being considered by health bosses.
Dentists have warned the proposals — subject to public consultation until April — will “drag dental health |services in Northern Ireland back 50 years”.
They believe the plans make a mockery of Government initiatives to address poor oral health in Northern Ireland, which is the worst in the UK. Health officials have argued they cannot afford the cost of NHS |dentistry and want to introduce a system where treatments are available |according to clinical need.
The cost of NHS dentistry in 2012/13 is forecast to be £12m greater than the allocated budget, so health bosses want to implement cost-cutting measures. Under the proposals, prior approval from the Business Services Organisation will be required before dentists can carry out a range of NHS treatments, such as root canals on molar teeth.
Orthodontic treatment will only be available on the health service in cases where intervention will result in |better oral health.
Currently, dentists can carry out orthodontic treatment on the health service when a patient suffers poor self-esteem as a result of their teeth.
Launching the public consultation on the proposals, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “I would like to reassure the public that all treatments will still be available to patients where they are clinically appropriate.” The consultation will run until April 3.