Thousands of children are waiting as long as 12 years for their first dental screening, it has emerged.
The Irish Dental Association said the public dental service is failing children.
The membership body for dentists in Ireland blamed “totally inadequate” staffing levels in the public dental service.
Currently, 300 dentists work in the public dental service. The association believes the number of dentists should be increased by 50%, or 150, if the service is to deliver on its objectives.
International guidelines recommend that children should have their first dental examination by their first birthday.
However, for most children in Ireland, their first scheduled encounter with the public service is at age seven or eight, under the school screening programme.
“Unfortunately, thousands more are only are only being seen for the first time in sixth class, age 12,” the IDA states.
IDA chief executive Fintan Hourihan said the under 16 population had increased by 20% to 1.1m over the past decade.
Over the same 10-year period, the number of dentists in the public dental service charged with looking after their oral health dropped by 20%.
“The situation with children and oral examinations is akin to a lottery, and that cannot be allowed to continue any longer,” said Mr Hourihan.
“The IDA is calling on the minister for health to direct the HSE to urgently commence a recruitment campaign to bring staffing to the required levels.”
Dentists have backed calls for the introduction of a voucher scheme for parents to cover the cost of their child’s first dental visit.
In its pre-budget submission, the IDA also calls for the restoration and expansion of tax relief on dental treatment, known as Med 2, for hard pressed families.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved