The Liberal Democrats have attacked the state of NHS dentistry after figures showed a significant rise in the number of people needing to have teeth extracted.
Surveys and official figures have repeatedly shown that many people cannot access an NHS dentist, meaning that they either seek private dentistry or place their oral health at risk if they cannot afford to do so.
New figures uncovered by the Lib Dems have now revealed that over 175,000 people had teeth extracted under general anaesthetic last year.
This represents a rise of 40,000 in just four years and shadow health secretary Norman Lamb branded the crisis in NHS dentistry as one of the government's "most shameful legacies".
He claimed: "This extraordinary number of people needing their teeth extracted under general anaesthetic could well be the result of the appalling access to NHS dentistry.
"The dental contract was supposedly designed to improve the situation, but the staggering rise in tooth extractions proves the massive failures of this botched initiative."
A recent poll carried out for Simplyhealth found that one in three people have struggled to find an NHS dentist.