Personal protective equipment (PPE), which the Government promised to provide to dentists seven months ago, has still not arrived, the Irish Dental Association (IDA) has said.
It has criticised the Government's lack of meaningful engagement with dentists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to IDA president, Dr Anne O'Neill, dentists have done "extraordinary work" since the onset of the pandemic last March, yet despite this, major cracks in the oral health system are not being addressed.
"The Government appears to be content to sideline the dental profession in the midst of the biggest health crisis this country has faced. Time and again, dentists have asked for action on hugely important issues from the Government, and every time they have failed to get results. This cannot be tolerated," she insisted.
She pointed out that the pandemic has led to major stress and extra costs for private dentists and their staff, yet they have received no State support.
"For example, PPE promised by former Health Minister, Simon Harris, seven months ago has still not arrived, despite 700 private dentists registering their interest with the HSE for this equipment. This is especially disappointing given an abundance of this equipment is being delivered to GPs and nursing homes.
"It is disrespectful and unreasonable for the Government to name dentistry as an essential service, while expecting dentists to also uphold excellent standards of care amidst a huge recent increase in cases, without any support whatsoever," Dr O'Neill said.
She also highlighted that dentists still do not know when they will be vaccinated against COVID-19 even though they have been designated as priority healthcare staff.
"The IDA is meeting with the HSE on Tuesday, but unfortunately dentists are concerned that, with their experience of PPE being promised but not delivered, they will be left at the back of the queue when it comes to being vaccinated," Dr O'Neill commented.
She pointed out that these issues have been exacerbated by the crisis in the dental medical card scheme, which has seen a fall of 20% in participating dentists since this time last year.
She said that the numerous issues facing the dental sector will have a detrimental impact on patients.
"Dentists cannot be expected to carry on as normal with no support from the Government when they are under such grave strain. Enough is enough - we need to see action, otherwise the health of patients will suffer and the provision of dentistry as we know it in Ireland will be in perilous danger," Dr O'Neill added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.