THERE HAS been a marked decline in attendance at dental practices during the recession as people are have cut-back on routine trips, according to the Irish Dentists' Association.

There are concerns that people who are not attending the dentist to get preventative treatments will end up with worse dental problems and the costs of restorative treatment will be higher for patients in the long run.

Fintan Hourihan, CEO of the Irish Dentists' Association (IDA), says that 68% of dentists overall have had a decrease in their number of patients. Half of them have reduced their fees.

"Undoubtedly with the downturn and the cutbacks in the two State schemes – the medical card scheme and the PRSI scheme – dentists have been hit," said Hourihan. "Prior to the changes to those two schemes, eight out of nine people were entitled to subsidised dental treatment but there have been savage cutbacks to both schemes."

The Sunday Tribune has also obtained the results of an IDA survey of private practices.

The survey reveals that over 65% of dental staff has had their working hours reduced and 92 of all practices experienced a fall in income in the last year.