PREVENTION IS BETTER than cure but that old maxim appears to be losing traction for Irish people and their dental health.
A survey for the Irish Dental Association, carried out by Behaviour and Attitudes, finds that 46 per cent of Irish people are spending less on dental health than they did three years ago – and 41 per cent of people surveyed rarely, if ever, think of visiting the dentist.
Even more worryingly, 58 per cent of people will not visit the dentist until they have a dental crisis and need emergency treatment. Most Irish adults believe that their teeth and gums are healthy (four out of five people) and yet a recent national oral health survey found that 80 per cent of people have some form of gum disease.
The cutting of some dental benefits previously provided under PRSI and medical card schemes has had a major impact on the frequency of attendance at dental surgeries, according to the Irish Dental Association (IDA). However, the IDA also pointed the finger at the HSE. IDA chief executive Fintan Hourihan said:
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.
Currently, women on a middle income and aged under 44 years are the most likely adult group to visit the dentist annually. Adults over the age of 45 years tend to visit less and less as time goes on. However, we have some loyalty to individual dentists with Irish people, on average, visiting the same dentist for over 11 years.