The mother of a two-year-old child with severe tooth decay has said it is "incredibly distressing" to see her in so much pain.

Rosalind O'Brien's daughter Julia has been unable to receive treatment due to changes to private dental services as a result of the current pandemic.

Ms O'Brien, who lives in Dublin, told RTÉ's News at One that the toddler needed dental surgery to remove up to seven teeth due to a developmental defect in the tooth enamel.

The family is able to access private healthcare but Julia's consultant does not currently have access to the private hospital where she carries out her procedures.

Ms O'Brien said her daughter is in a lot of pain.

"The other night she was screaming, thrashing and pulling out her own hair because she's in so much pain. We can't get her any help."

She said she has tried to contact her public health nurse, her GP, the dental hospital and the Health Service Executive's dental clinic.

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It is often "very difficult" to get through to these places, she said, and a lot of the time you simply leave a voice message and wait for someone to call you back.

"There seems to be no facilities for general anesthetic lists for children for dental work at the moment. It's incredibly distressing, it's really heartbreaking to see them so distraught and not be able to help."

Dr Rose-Marie Daly, the paediatric dental consultant who was treating Ms O'Brien's daughter before the pandemic, told the News at One that the private hospital she works in was nationalised as part of the response to the crisis, meaning she has no access to general anaesthetic.

"I also don't have any defined, clear pathway where I can now refer my patients, who I would normally treat under general anaesthetic," Dr Daly said.

"My consultant colleagues in the public service are telling me they have hundreds of patients who are on general anaesthetic waiting lists who also have pain."

Dr Daly said that each individual clinician makes the decision on whether or not a child should be considered a priority case.

She said a very severe dental infection with a risk of systemic infection or sepsis would be considered a genuine emergency, or a case where a child's airway is compromised.

"That is a decision that an individual clinician has to come to," Dr Daly said. "It's not completely black and white".

A spokesperson for the Irish Dental Association has said children like Julia should be able to receive urgent treatment for something that can be traumatic and potentially have serious health implications.

The spokesperson said the case highlights "the State's poor planning with regard to dentistry during the Covid-19 crisis."

They said the absence of defined care pathways - for children in particular - means that a large number of patients are falling through the cracks.

The spokesperson also pointed out that prior to the coronavirus crisis, there were already unacceptably long waiting lists for children who need dental treatment under general anaesthesia, with many private hospitals taking on this work to ease the pressure on the public system.