A PAINFUL tooth that needs a filling could extract up to €120 from a patient’s bank account in Limerick, or just €70 if they find the right dentist.
The top price for a filling in Limerick is €20 more expensive than the going rate in Galway but €50 cheaper than obeying the “open wide” command in Dublin.
However, if patients don’t mind a long drive and have a good supply of analgesic, that throbbing tooth can be filled in Donegal for a fraction of the price at just €35.
Prices come from a national survey of 220 dentists conducted by the Irish Independent which showed that having dental work done in Dublin can cost around five times more than having the same work done in rural areas.
Limerick came in around mid price range for the survey, but more expensive than Galway in both the dearest and cheapest prices quoted and slightly less expensive than Cork, with Western counties including Clare being cheaper than eastern ones generally.
But while finding an affordable dentist might be a pain, new patients will also have to agonise about finding a dentist willing to take them on at all and it becomes particularly difficult if the patient is relying on a medical card for treatment.
According to leaders of the Irish Dental Association, who are calling for radical reform of the industry and particularly of the medical card scheme, there is a general shortage of dentists, with Limerick one of the hardest places to find a practice with capacity to take on new patients.
A shortage of people signing up to study as dentists has put huge pressure on existing practices, with an estimated 500 new dentists needed every year and just 200 registering with the Dental Council.
CEO of the Irish Dental Association Fintan Houlihan said, “Talking to our people in Limerick, it is one of the worst affected areas. We see this in calls from medical card patients who say they are experiencing huge difficulty, and this extends into Clare and Tipperary.”
The Irish Dental Association has called on the Government to reform the medical card (DTSS) scheme and replace it with a fit-for-purpose scheme that reflects modern dental practices and standards.