Only half of Irish adults are aware of their state dental entitlement to a free dental examination, according to a new survey commissioned by the Irish Dental Association.
The Behaviour and Attitudes survey of 750 adults found that 58% of Irish people would only visit the dentist in an emergency situation, while 41% would rarely, if ever, think of visiting the dentist at all.
The survey highlights how the financial crisis has taken its toll on dental health, with 23% of people surveyed saying they are visiting the dentist less often since 2010.
However, the majority of respondents believe that their teeth and gums are healthy and look good, which is not always the case, as Chief Executive of the IDA, Fintan Hourihan explains:
“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.”
Mr Hourihan believes that the survey shows a need to reach out to non-attenders and a restoration of the benefits which were previously available under the Medical Card and PRSI schemes.
“According to the survey, people who attend their dentist annually are much more likely to be middle class females under 44 years. Frequency of dental visits shows a strong age pattern, declining sharply from 45 years onwards.
“The Department of Health needs to reach out to the people who are not attending and encourage them to do so. The cost of preventative treatment will be much less than the cost of the current neglect.” Mr Hourihan warned.