Two million fewer people have access to an NHS dentist than in 1997, the Conservatives have claimed.
According to Tory health spokesman Dr Andrew Murrison, less than half the population is now registered with a dentist and more people are paying for private dentistry.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the country's Local Dental Committees, Dr Murrison said that dentistry is particularly amenable to preventive health.
"The diseases that you largely deal with are either preventable or remediable through timely intervention," he explained.
"Dentists will do preventive oral health where they can because it's the right thing to do and because they're professional people in an altruistic environment."
Dr Murrison described the new dental contract as a "costly disaster" and cited figures from a British Dental Association (BDA) survey published earlier this year, which revealed that 85 per cent of dentists believe the contract has not improved access to NHS dentistry.
Meanwhile, Dr Lester Ellman, chairman of the BDA's general dental practice committee, said that 93 per cent of dentists do not believe the contract has encouraged a more preventive approach to care, while 95 per cent are less confident about the future of the NHS than they were two years ago.