Thousands of children in hospital for teeth removal 'due to dental care cuts'
Up to 10,000 children under the age of 15 are ending up in hospital every year to have teeth removed in what dentists claim is a direct result of cuts to free dental care.
The Irish Dental Association (IDA) said the shocking revelations were a national disgrace and an indictment of the slash and burn policy of the previous and current governments to oral health policy.
It is feared the rate of hospitalisation is five times higher than in the UK.
Figures compiled by the dentists' group warned thousands of children are suffering chronic infections, with many of them requiring multiple extractions, under anaesthetic, and a wait of up to 12 months for treatment.
Anne Twomey, IDA president, said youngsters are being put through the trauma of hospitalisation because of cuts to standard free dental care in Ireland.
"Ninety five per cent of these cases would have been avoidable if they had been detected and treated earlier," she said.
"The reason they weren't is because of Government cuts to family dental supports since 2010, the constant undermining of what had been a highly effective schools screening service and the fact that too many of our young people have a poor diet containing too much sugar."
The figures were released at the annual seminar in Carlow for dentists working in the Health Service Executive.
They were described as "off the scale".
Dentists said they warned five years ago about the impact of cuts to the free screening programme and that ultimately the cost would be a multiple of the savings being made.
Public dental cover was slashed by the government back in 2010 meaning anything from gum cleaning to fillings, extractions or root canals and many other treatments were no longer covered through PRSI.
Other figures also revealed more than 3,000 children are waiting for general anaesthetic services for treatment to teeth and some of these have been waiting up to a year.
Dentists warned that there is anecdotal evidence of children being admitted to hospital for IV antibiotics to treat oral infections as they await dental care.
"Our concern is that general anaesthetic services for dentistry will not become a priority until a child has a serious outcome from dental infection," Dr Twomey said.