Dentists in Ireland are being forced to work abroad to fulfil other specialist roles, as the only dental fields that are being supported locally are specialist orthodontics and oral surgery. This has sparked the worry that the dental profession as a whole there cannot assure patients that they are receiving a high quality of care.
Dr John Marley, Dean of the RCSI Faculty of Dentistry has expressed concern over this: “there needs to be a formal mechanism to allow them to keep their skills up to date, and continue to be able to recognise when to refer patients appropriately.”
There are 13 specialist lists that are recognised in the UK:
- Orthodontics - The diagnosis, prevention, development, and diagnosis and correction of misaligned teeth and jaws.
- Oral Surgery - The diagnosis and management of pathology of the jaw and mouth that requires surgical intervention. This includes the speciality previously called Surgical Dentistry.
- Dental and Maxillofacial Radiology - The diagnosis and management of diseased states of the jaws and teeth. This involves all aspects of medical imaging, which provides information about its function and anatomy.
- Dental Public Health - A non-clinical speciality which involves the science and art of preventing oral diseases, and promoting oral health to the general public, rather than the individual. It involves the assessment of dental health needs and ensuring that dental services meet those needs.
- Restorative Destistry - Involves replacing missing teeth, repairing damaged teeth and can lead to the rehabilitation of the whole mouth.
- Endodontics - This involves the management, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of diseases and injuries involving tooth root, dental pulp, and surrounding tissue.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology - This is concerning the study and diagnosis of the effects to do with reconstructive surgery of the face. This also includes facial trauma surgery, as well as facial cosmetic surgery.
- Oral Medicine - This concerns the oral healthcare of patients with medically related disorders of the mouth.
- Oral Microbiology - The assessment of facial infection, such as fungal or bacterial disease
- Periodontics - The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of irregularities and diseases of the gums and other structures around the teeth.
- Prosthodontics - Involves the replacement of teeth that are missing from the mouth, as well as the replacement of the soft and hard tissues via crowns, bridges and dentures.
- Special Care Dentistry - This regards the improvement of the oral health of individuals who requires special care. (Such as physical, mental, or social impairments).
- Paediatric Dentistry - Detailed therapeutic oral health care for children throughout their adolescence. Especially for those who show psychological and/or emotional problems.
According to Dr Marley, the Irish Dental Council recognises oral surgery and orthodontics as specialist fields, and unlike a variety of other fields such as doctors, accountants and solicitors, there is no law requirement for dentists to undertake continuous professional development training.
“This means there is no formal mechanism for dentists to demonstrate to the public that they are maintaining their skills and knowledge and keeping up to date.” Mr Marley says.
Currently, there are hopes that the Oireachtas health committee will introduce an intern year for dentists, as well as an emphasis on continuous professional development.
“Talented young dentists who want a career in the public sector or academic dentistry in Ireland have only limited access to training programmes. These young dentists are likely to leave Ireland to access these programmes of training in the UK, Europe or the USA, benefitting the dental health of other countries at our expense”.
Among the hopes for dentists to receive continuous professional development, there is also a desire for an expansion of the current list of recognised specialities in Ireland through new legislation.
“At the core of these issues is the need to maintain the quality of care and services provided to our patients”
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