IRISH people are avoiding the dentist's chair in droves due to the recession -- but still believe their teeth and gums are healthy and look good, a new survey has revealed.
Almost a quarter of those surveyed admitted they visited the dentist less often in the past four years, but more than 80pc still believe their smiles are in top condition, the survey conducted for the Irish Dental Association has found.
Its chief executive Fintan Hourihan said that the findings show that the economic crisis of recent years is having "a hugely negative impact on the dental health of the population".
And he said the results showed the need to reach out to non-attenders and a restoration of the benefits that were previously available under the Medical Card and PRSI schemes.
The Behaviour and Attitudes survey of 750 adults found that:
* 23pc of respondents -- or as much as 776,000 people in the wider population -- are visiting the dentist less often.
* More than half (58pc) only consider visiting the dentist in an emergency situation.
* 46pc say they are spending less on dental health.
* And 41pc rarely, if ever, think of visiting the dentist.
Mr Hourihan said the survey shows the impact the recession is having on dental health and a disconnect between what people think and how they act.
He said: "While over 80pc believe their gums are healthy, according to the most recent national oral health survey, 80pc of Irish people have some form of gum disease."
While 94pc of respondents said they thought dental health is important, almost 60pc 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," Mr Hourihan added.
He said only half of Irish adults are aware of their state dental entitlement of a free check up.