New figures have revealed that a significant proportion of dentists' earnings are not coming from NHS dentistry, indicating that many have moved into private dentistry.
Less than 42 per cent of non-associates' earnings in 2005/06 came from the NHS, according to figures contained in the Dental Earnings and Expenses Report.
The proportion has fallen from 58 per cent in 1999/2000, showing that many dentists are leaving the NHS and choosing to operate within the private sector.
Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, said that the dental workforce is "looking to a future in which they felt less and less able to rely on the NHS".
"At the same time, demand for private care, and the wider range of treatments it offers, increased," he revealed.
Mr Ward also noted that the trend has been exacerbated by the NHS dentistry reforms, with a target-driven system now limiting the amount of dentistry that can be funded by primary care trusts and local health boards.
"The result is that the millions of people who want to access NHS dental care are still unable to do so," he added.
Some 20,000 British people have become so disenchanted with the availability of dental treatment at home that they travelled abroad to see a dentist in 2006.
What's better? Private or NHS healthcare?