The overwhelming majority of dentists have no confidence in the medical card scheme and are dissatisfied with the level of care they are allowed to provide under it, according to a new survey.
Of the more than 440 dentists who took part in the Irish Dental Association survey, 96% said the scheme prevents them providing the same standard of care as given to private patients.
38% said they had been refused approval to provide treatment for exceptional or high risk patients, due to lack of funding.
The survey also found 97% of dentists lack confidence in the Dental Treatment Services Scheme, which is the scheme under which medical card holders receive treatment free of charge.
Three quarters of the dentists responding to the survey said they want to leave the Scheme within the next five years.
Over 440 dentists, all members of the Irish Dental Association, completed the survey which was taken in the first two weeks of May 2018.
Irish Dental Association CEO Fintan Hourihan said dentists could no longer deal with what he describedas a system failure.
"The Scheme is 24 years old and unfit for purpose. 57% of dentists say they have experienced considerable or a huge amount of problems with it in the past five years," said Mr Hourihan.
"They are saying it's a disgrace for patients and dentists, that it's broken and underfunded. They are tired of battling with the HSE and having to explain to disappointed patients why they cannot provide them with basic dental care.
"Medical card patients have lower oral health levels, a greater need for treatment and a lower access rate to care and treatment. How has the HSE addressed their needs? They have quite simply removed preventive and restorative treatments from the very people with the greatest need."
The IDA says that since 2010 the number of patients eligible for dental care has risen to 1,340,412 - an increase of almost 260,000 or 24%, but the number of treatments funded by the HSE has fallen by 24%.