Some 76% of dentists have seen their incomes fall over the past two years, according to a new survey by the Irish Dental Association (IDA).

The survey indicated that one out of five dentists had seen their income decline by between 40 and 60%, while two out of five experienced falls of between 20 and 40%.

Respondents said the biggest challenges they faced were accessing credit, getting paid promptly and debt repayment. Some 13% said that their income had remained the same, while 10% said they had recorded an increase.

IDA Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan described the findings as extremely worrying and called on the Minister for Health, James Reilly TD, to ensure the restoration of all essential preventive treatments in the next Budget under both schemes.

“The huge drop in income is due to the destruction of the two State schemes and a significant drop in visits and treatments by private patients. The medical card scheme, which provided a good basic dental service, is now an emergency only scheme, while the only benefit available under the PRSI scheme is an annual dental exam. In addition, many private patients are now opting to have the bare minimum of work done, where previously they would have considered more comprehensive treatments.

“We have pointed out consistently the very serious repercussions these cutbacks will have on the dental health of the nation, but as this survey shows the HSE embargo on hiring new staff, the cuts to the State schemes and the decline in patients’ income have also hit the dental profession extremely hard. About 80 dentists graduate every year and we estimate that 70 of last year’s class emigrated. Unfortunately, most of these highly trained graduates now see their futures on foreign shores,” Hourihan concluded.