More than a quarter of a million people have lost access to an NHS dentist since the government introduced reforms in April 2006, new figures show.
According to the Information Centre, the number of patients seen by an NHS dentist in England fell from 28,145,000 in the 24 months up to March 31st 2006 to 27,879,000 in the equivalent period leading up to June 30th 2007.
In addition, the Department of Health has acknowledged that a further two million people wanted access to an NHS dentist before March 2006, but were unable to get the treatment they needed without visiting a private dentist.
According to Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, the government's reforms are failing to improve access to NHS dentistry.
"These statistics offer further evidence that the government's reforms to NHS dentistry aren't achieving their stated aims.
"This contract has failed to improve access for patients and failed to allow dentists to deliver the kind of modern, preventive care they believe their patients deserve," he claimed.