Four out of five Irish people think their teeth and gums are healthy and look good - however, the reality is somewhat different as people are now visiting the dentist far less often than they used to.
A new survey has found 23% of people are visiting the dentist less often since 2010 while nearly 60% of those surveyed said they would only consider visiting the dentist in an emergency.
According to the survey of 750 adults, which was carried out for the Irish Dental Association (IDA), 46% of Irish people are spending less on dental health while 41% rarely if ever think of visiting their dentist.
IDA Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan said the survey showed the impact the recession was having on dental health as well as a 'disconnect' between what people think and how they act.
"One in four Irish people are attending the dentist less often. In population terms this equates to 760,000 adults. It's clear this is having a hugely negative impact on the dental health of the population. While over 80% believe their gums are healthy, according to the most recent national oral health survey, 80% of Irish people have some form of gum disease."
The survey found that while 94% of respondents said they thought dental health was important almost 60% said they would only attend a dentist when they really need to or in an emergency.
"Financial pressures are definitely a factor here but so also is the lack of information from the HSE. The survey shows that only half of Irish adults are aware of their State dental entitlement of a free check up and only one in three have availed of it," Mr Hourihan said.
He called for a restoration of the dental cover benefits which were previously available under the medical card and PRSI schemes but were withdrawn due to Government cutbacks.
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