Laois children are among the worst affected by staff dental cuts in the HSE, with many of them needing teeth pulled by the time they are seen by a school dentist, in secondary school.
HSE dentists have warned of the dire effect staff cuts are having on children's dental health, and are threatening industrial action unless more staff are hired .
They cited Laois as one of the worst affected, where last year HSE dentists performed 1,200 dental extractions on children, and 1,800 fillings.
In Offaly it is even worse, with 915 extractions done, almost as much as the 1,100 fillings carried out.
“The situation in Laois and Offaly is simply shocking. We believe this is a direct result of the collapse of the school screenings in these areas. Children in these counties are not being seen until they are in first year in secondary school,” Chief Executive of the Irish Dental Association, Fintan Hourihan said at the HSE dentists annual seminar on Monday October 10.
He listed shocking statistics since the staff moratorium began in 2008.
“The average age for children to undergo extractions under general anaesthetic is 6, while some children as young as 2 require this treatment. Some children are having more than 9 teeth extracted,” he said.
The population of under 16's in Laois has grown by 40 percent since 2002, but the number of HSE dentists has fallen by 42% since 2008.
“We pointed out last year that 10,000 children were undergoing extractions under general anaesthetic. There is no way this level of extractions should be happening in a first world country,” he said.
Mr Hourihan has called on the Minister for Health Simon Harris to intervene personally to sanction senior appointments.
"If we are serious about turning back the clock on years of cut backs and mismanagement we need to establish a dedicated budget for HSE dental services and we need a full-time HSE Director of Oral Health and a full-time Chief Dental Officer independent of the HSE to be appointed" he concluded.
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