The Irish Dental Association has said the public dental service is failing children who are waiting as long as 12 years for their first dental screening.
The association has said that at least 150 additional dentists are needed to ensure children receive adequate dental care.
Most Irish children have their first dental visit at the age of seven or eight, as part of the school screening programme.
However, the Irish Dental Association has said thousands of children have to wait until they are aged 12 to be seen by a dentist.
It said the delay is due to a major shortage of dentists in the public dental service.
There are currently 300 dentists assigned to treat children and vulnerable groups through the public system.
The association has said that figure needs to be doubled.
It has called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to direct the Health Service Executive to start a major recruitment drive.
It is also seeking the restoration and expansion of tax relief on dental treatments for low income families.
The HSE has said it is working hard to improve access to dental and orthodontic treatment and reduce waiting times.
It said an extra €1 million was added each year to the health service plans over the past three years.
The HSE said it has 822 primary care dental staff employed.
It said that for younger children, the focus is on second class and sixth class, to ensure children receive check-ups early and prior to entry into secondary school.
The HSE said the most recent fluoride and caring for children’s teeth report showed that five-year-olds and 12-year-olds have less than one decayed tooth on average.
IDA Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan said: “Staff shortages, clinic closures and a lack of policy and direction by the HSE are putting an intolerable burden on staff in the PDS [public dental service] and undermining their ability to provide an effective service.
“While the under-16 population has increased by 20% over the past decade to 1.1m, the number of dentists in the public dental service charged with looking after their oral health has dropped by 20% due to recruitment restrictions.”
He added: “The situation with children and oral examinations is akin to a lottery and that cannot be allowed to continue any longer.”
*Original article online at https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0817/897965-dentist/