Press Release

Ministers for Health and Social Protection publish Smile agus Sláinte – the National Oral Health Policy

Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD and Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty TD have today published Smile agus Sláinte, the new National Oral Health Policy.

The plan will see the service evolve from a “diagnose and treat” to a person-centred, proactive and preventative approach available locally, in line with the vision as set out under Sláintecare.

Under the Policy, all children up to 16 years will receive eight oral healthcare packages including examinations, assessments, advice, prevention interventions, emergency care and referral as appropriate. Oral healthcare packages will also be provided for medical card holders over 16 years. The packages will be provided in a primary care setting by oral healthcare practitioners contracted by the HSE.

There will be a particular focus on improved oral health services for all vulnerable groups, including people in nursing and residential homes. Smile agus Sláinte will ensure that the local dentist will be the first point of contact for these groups with the HSE community oral healthcare services providing additional high-support care as required.

The key actions contained in the Policy include:

  • Provision of preventative oral health packages for children and eligible adults
  • A focus on vulnerable groups with the development of appropriate oral health interventions and clinical care pathways
  • A full review of education and training to ensure that the skill levels of the profession are commensurate with today’s requirements
  • Oral health promotion programmes for the entire population
  • The maintenance of the programme of water fluoridation

Speaking at the policy launch Minister Harris said “Smile agus Sláinte provides the groundwork to transform oral health services over the next eight years; it embraces the same ideals as Slaintecare with the needs of people at the core and the provision of services in the local community paramount.”

Welcoming the policy, Minister Doherty said “I welcome the proposals contained in the oral health policy and believe that they will make an important contribution to the improvement of the oral health of the population in the future.

“I particularly welcome the initiative to extend dental services to children through the introduction of the concept of ‘packages of care’ for children from birth to 16 years of age. My Department provides approximately €55 million from the Social Insurance Fund for adult dental services under the Treatment Benefit scheme and consideration will be given to the possible expansion of this funding for insured adults, and their children, to synchronise and support the delivery of the proposals contained in the National Oral Health Policy.”

Commenting on the development of the Policy, Dr Dympna Kavanagh, Chief Dental Officer at the Department of Health, said: “This is a comprehensive evidence based Policy which has been informed by extensive research and  deliberations of oral healthcare professionals. For that reason I expect that it will be positively received by the dental community because it will not only facilitate better oral healthcare for everyone but  will also support the continued professional development of the sector.”

Professor Brian O’Connell, Dean of Dental Affairs in Dublin Dental University Hospital and Vice-Chair of the Oral Health Academic Research Group said that “Irish people value their smiles and want to keep their teeth healthy and functioning for life. The new Oral Health Policy recognises that maintaining good teeth throughout life is part of our total health and well being. The Policy will promote oral health by facilitating regular access and choice of preventive care for all members of our society.”

It is proposed that there will be a phased implementation of Smile agus Sláinte over the period 2019-2026. The ESRI has estimated that the oral healthcare packages approach contained in the Policy would cost approximately €80 million.

The National Oral Health Policy, and an Overview document, are available on the Department of Health website.