Orthodontics, whether they are traditional braces, the Damon System or Invisalign, have long been a milestone for teens. From the old days of “brace face” to today’s nearly invisible aligner options which let teens go to dances, school picture day and first dates with self-confidence, teens now have more options for obtaining straight teeth. Younger teeth are easier to shift, align and perfect, so unfortunately for hormone-driven, acne-prone, apathetic teens, these are the prime years for braces. Adult braces are gaining in popularity, but it’s still easier to adjust teen teeth. But some teens in Ireland are stuck waiting years for orthodontics.
Galway, Ireland, is home to a unique trend in which a number of teens are 18 or 19 years old before they finally get orthodontic treatment, according to the national Health Service Executive agency. In the United Kingdom, health and dental services are nationalized, which is different than the way it is done in the United States. Around the world, including in Ireland, the ideal age for braces is between 10 and 14 years old, because by that age, permanent teeth have usually formed. However, the wait is simply so long for national health care orthodontics in Galway that teens turn into young adults before it’s their turn. Although national health care is available for dentistry and orthodontics, it seems that doesn’t make it much more accessible.
Is the Wait Really the Hardest Part?
Not only are some Irish teens waiting years to start orthodontic treatment, it often takes three or four months just to get an assessment. Not all teens need orthodontics, and sometimes braces or Invisalign trays are for purely aesthetic reasons. However, the odds of a person having perfect alignment, a perfect bite and perfectly spaced teeth that don’t collect bacteria is slim to none. Most people would benefit — not just aesthetically — from some type of orthodontic treatment.
Once Galway teens find out whether they need and would benefit from orthodontic treatment, they’re put on a waiting list that’s up to three years long. A few severe situations are put on a special priority list. This is reserved for only the most complex and demanding of cases, but even these priority teens have to wait around 20 months to start treatment, according to the HSE.
Timing it Right
While these wait times sound astounding, they were recently confirmed by the Saolta University hospital group’s chief operating officer, Tony Canavan. He calls it a “no good news story” and doesn’t have any recommendations for fixing what appears to be a red-tape-laden situation. The most recent statistics estimate 3,330 children are on the waiting list in Galway and nearby Mayo alone. Nearly 1,300 have been waiting at least a year for treatment and 450 have been waiting over two years.
Luckily for U.S. teens, orthodontics are more accessible here. Call your local Johnson Elite Orthodontics team today for an assessment — without a four-month wait.