Patients at up to 5,000 dental practices could be forced to wait until Easter for fillings and crowns because the government has told cash-strapped trusts not to pay for their treatment.
Dentists are paid under their new contract for an agreed number of treatments per year but many have been treating too many people too quickly.
Two weeks ago the Health Department sent out a memo to primary care trusts instructing them not to give over-performing dentists any more money - no matter how long the waiting lists.
It means patients will have the unenviable choice of waiting for treatment, finding an alternative practice which is able to take on extra NHS patients, paying privately, or turning up at hard-pressed accident and emergency departments.
The Department of Health has a number of patients exempt from charges. Exempt patients include children and pregnant women, people on benefits, some war pensioners and some on low incomes. So local trusts which pay dentists have less money to use. Dentists have a quota of work and treatment for which they are paid, and those that have used up their quota seeking extra cash are mostly told that the kitty is empty.
No doubt officials will try to blame patients for these problems - too many people wanting dental treatment.
If you want some control on when or if you will get dental treatment, dental insurance is becoming a ‘must have'.