A new survey of Irish dentists indicates the sector is facing up to 1,000 job losses in 2012.
The survey found that 86% of dentists saw their turnover fall in 2011, with almost half (49%) recording falls of over 20%.
Half of the dentists said they expected their turnover to fall further in 2012 and one in four said they believed their practice would be reducing staff numbers in the coming year.
According to the survey 20% of dentists want to sell their practice but are prevented from doing so because there are few buyers in the market.
The survey of over 300 dentists was carried out on behalf of the Irish Dental Association by Omega Financial Management.
IDA Chief Executive Fintan Hourihan said the findings showed how the recession and the cutbacks to dental schemes are impacting dentists all over the country.
"We have highlighted on many occasions the negative impact the cutbacks to the Medical Card scheme and the PRSI scheme are having on patients. This survey looks at the negative impacts they are having on dentists and employment in the sector. We have already seen two thousand job losses over the last two years and if a quarter of dentists say they are looking at reducing staff numbers that translates into 1,000 job losses. If the Government is serious about dental health and growing employment they will take action now" Hourihan said.
John O'Connor of Omega Financial Management, who carried out the survey on behalf of the IDA noted that 40% of dentists now expect to have to work until at least age 70 as their retirement plans have been compromised in recent years.
"The main reasons for this are falling turnovers, the collapse in the value of surgery buildings and insufficient levels of pension funding. These challenges are being exacerbated by falling numbers entering the profession and setting up new practices, making it more difficult for those wishing to retire to do so" O'Connor said.
Hourihan also pointed out that the future for young graduates was incredibly grim with only half a dozen or so of the 70 young dentists who graduated in 2011 finding employment here.
"Most of the class of 2011 emigrated to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Many established dentists are also being forced to emigrate or work part-time in the UK to supplement reduced work in Ireland. These dentists have been educated and funded in large measure by tax payers and now they are being trained for emigration even though the need for dentists to care for and treat patients has never been greater" Hourihan concluded.