The number of dentists treating patients with medical cards has dropped significantly since 2019.
Three years ago nearly 1,500 private dentists were signed up to the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, treating people on low incomes for examinations, fillings, cleanings and tooth extractions.
However, by the end of March 2022 the number of dentists signed up to the scheme had plummeted to only 1,091.
271 dentists left the scheme in 2020, followed by 200 last year and 39 in the first three months of this year.
Caroline Robins, the president of the Irish Dental Association, says the scheme is “not fit for purpose” and needs reform.
“It doesn’t look after the patients,” she explained to Newstalk.
“There is no referral pathways for people who need higher need treatments - so there’s simply nowhere for me to refer someone to an oral surgeon because there isn’t one I can refer to in the south east.
“My patients have to go to Cork if they have other needs [such as] gum needs or anything like that.
“There’s just nowhere that I can refer them to.”
Sinn Féin is calling on the system to be urgently reformed, having previously described the system as “on the verge of collapse”.
Main image: A dentist at work.