Speech for Minister Tim O’Malley, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at the Gala Dinner for the Public Dental Surgeons Annual Seminar

Ladies and Gentlemen I would like to thank you all, and the Irish Dental Association, for your kind invitation and welcome to this Gala dinner on the occasion of your annual scientific meeting. At the outset I would like to congratulate you on your work and your contribution to an important public service. Oral health is fundamental to a person’s overall health, well-being and quality of life. A healthy mouth allows a person to eat, speak and socialise without pain, discomfort or embarrassment.

Public Dental Services

The salaried dental services foster a preventive approach to care. Also, they are particularly suitable where care is directed towards vulnerable groups. The Department of Health and Children recognises the important strengths in the Public Dental Services, such as:

  • fostering preventive dentistry, thus reducing overall need for dental care, and
  • providing essential treatment to those who cannot access dental care through the private sector for various reasons.

Oral Health Inequalities

The oral health of the Irish population has improved dramatically over the past 50 years. But not all groups have benefited equally. The Public Dental Service has contributed to the improvement of oral health and the reduction of health inequalities:

  • By working with other groups to manage and support the fluoridation of public water supplies for the benefit of all.
  • By providing preventive care and treatment to all children under 16 years. For example, research has shown that up to 70% of Irish 15 year olds have evidence of fissure sealants on their back teeth, which is a testament to your endeavours.
  • Some Public Dental Surgeons provide care to adults with medical cards in order to improve access – particularly in rural areas, where there are fewer private dentists.
  • Senior Dental Surgeons with responsibility for “Special Needs” groups have facilitated improved access and care to these people. Indeed, the oral health of children with special needs has improved since 1989, according to research in the Eastern Health region.

Oral Health Research

Public Dental Surgeons conduct research and audits to facilitate evaluation of dental services in Ireland. Significant resources were made available by the Department of Health and Children to conduct the most recent Oral Health Surveys. This large project was planned and executed by Public Health Dentists under the guidance of researchers in the Oral Health Services Research Centre in Cork. It resulted in considerable up-skilling of the dental teams involved.

Much of this research has been published and is available on the web-site of the Department of Health and Children.

You’ll be glad to hear that the long-awaited final report from the Adult and Children’s surveys will be published at the beginning of December this year.

Without doubt, evidence-based research such as this will contribute greatly to the evaluation and development of cost-effective oral health policy in Ireland.


I wish to thank all of you who participated in the Research projects – including those who evaluated the original tenders, those who were on the User Groups and the trainers. Especially, I wish to thank those of you who undertook the arduous task of collecting the data.

May I also take this opportunity to thank the people who have worked hard to support and manage the vital dental schemes – such as the Dental Treatment Service Scheme and the Fluoridation of public water supplies.

The amendments to the Fluoride legislation, as recommended by the Forum on Fluoridation, will shortly be presented to the Oireachtas. The Department of Health and Children is committed to ongoing research to evaluate the effects of reducing the amount of fluoride in our public water supplies.

I wish to thank the organisers of this valuable scientific conference. Specifically, I would like to congratulate your new President, Dr. Patrick Quinn, who was the main professional organiser and the inspiration for this event. Congratulations, Dr. Quinn on an excellent programme.

I would also like to thank Ms. Ciara Murphy, your Chief Executive Officer, and her hard working staff, in particular Ms. Elaine Hughes, without whose dedication this evening would not be possible.

Once again, I would like to thank you for your kind hospitality. I hope you all enjoy this evening and the rest of your seminar.