MORE than 2,400 children are facing long waits for orthodontic treatment in Cork and Kerry, it has been revealed.
Almost 200 have been waiting more than three years, and 11 have been waiting more than four years after an initial assessment.
Figures obtained by Fianna Fáil show that 1,277 of these were assessed as grade 5 — the most in need of treatment — and a further 1,146 were assessed as grade 4.
The figures also show that more than 1,300 are awaiting initial assessments in Cork, with 527 waiting in the North Lee area, 684 in South Lee and West Cork, and a further 128 in North Cork.
Almost 400 of these have been waiting longer than six months.
The HSE figures show that the waiting period for adult medical card patients referred for minor oral surgery, including extractions, is approximately two years.
Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Stephen Donnelly TD expressed concern about the number of children being failed by the HSE in relation to dental health assessments.
There are 84,000 children across the country waiting for a public dental assessment, or treatment.
“It’s important to understand the knock-on effect that delays like these are causing,” said Deputy Donnelly.
“I recently met with the Irish Dental Association who explained that children with what would be considered very minor problems are left waiting so long that their treatment becomes critical.
“They’re suffering through pain and infections which could easily be avoided with earlier intervention,” he added.
“In some cases, children are missing days from school, being put on repeated courses of antibiotics and requiring surgery because the problem has been allowed get so bad.”
Official statistics show that around 7,000 children are sent to hospital each year to have a tooth removed under general anaesthetic.
The main issue is a staffing shortage, explained Deputy Donnelly.
“Many parents are opting for private treatment to escape the public system, however for lots of families this isn’t an option and it’s wholly unfair.”