The Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said that there is a need for 500 more dentists in the private and public service to meet the current demands of the public.
Chief Executive of the IDA, Fintan Hourihan, told the Oireachtas Committee on Health that 80% of spending on dental care in Ireland is out-of-pocket expenditure and that State assistance towards dental care costs is extremely limited.
He also told the committee that €5m had been announced in the Budget for the school screening backlog, but there has been no extra public service dentists allowed to be hired using these funds.
Last year under 100,000 children were seen under the school screening programme, less than anticipated.
Hourihan noted that there is now an almost 10-year backlog in accessing services in certain parts of the country where children are receiving their first appointment when they are in their fourth year of secondary school.
When it comes to treatments requiring general anaesthetic, there is currently a two year long waiting list, with Hourihan saying that dentists are now being forced to choose the children they believe are in the most pain rather than patients who are waiting months or years.
IDA past president Dr Caroline Robins has also noted that dentists are often seeing patients for the first time ever when they are in secondary school.
By this time, it is often too late as the dental damage has already been done.