The Dental Association of Ireland has voted no confidence in Health Minister Stephen Donnelly amid a significant increase in people waiting for dental care.
One in six people now wait three months or more for elective care and half wait over three months for specialist care.
Half of members surveyed by the association have tried to hire a dentist in the past year and 60% have failed to find a suitable candidate.
IDA CEO Fintan Hourihan told Newstalk Breakfast he recently met dentists who broke down “in tears” when speaking about the pressure they are under and some revealed they had even been assaulted while at work.
Mr Hourihan described long waiting lists as a consequence of the “collapse in schemes run by the State” and the lack of ministerial attention.
“In very simple terms, it’s not a priority,” he said.
“The Minister said it’s a priority, he wants to see things change and we are pleased to hear that and this has been a consistent pattern for many years, with his predecessors as well.
“Oral health is very important but it’s never given the priority it’s needed and we now have a crisis and that’s the last time you want to intervene… you want to pre-empt a crisis and that ship passed many years ago.
“Now there’s intense frustration among dentists.”
Mr Hourihan said the shortage of dentists needed to be addressed urgently and called for changes to the education and immigration systems.
“We need changes in the work permit situation, we need to see more dentists brought in from outside the State,” he said.
“We need to see the State employ more dentists because they’ve had an embargo for many years.
“We need to see changes in the number of undergraduate school places because half of the places here are reserved for students from overseas who go home as soon as they graduate.”
The Irish Dental Association’s annual gathering will take place this weekend in Kilkenny.
Main image: Split of Stephen Donnelly and dentists at work.