Many NHS dental patients could have to wait until Easter for fillings and crowns after the government told trusts not to pay for treatments.
Under the new dental contracts, dentists are paid for a certain number of treatments per year, but recent research by the British Dental Association has revealed that up to a quarter of dentists are likely to reach their annual limit before the end of the financial year in April.
The Department for Health has urged primary care trusts (PCTs) not to give dentists any more money for performing additional treatments, even if waiting lists are lengthy, and patients at up to 5,000 dental practices could find themselves turned away over the coming weeks as a result.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb told the Daily Mail that more people would be driven away from the NHS and forced to seek private dental treatment.
"We can't have a situation where work stops in surgeries which happen to have provided more treatments," he insisted.
"It's yet another miscalculation by the government and patients are inevitably paying the price."
However, the Department for Health told PCTs that paying dentists more would "introduce perverse incentives for dentists to work at a faster pace" and would undermine the government reform programme's intention to encourage dentists to spend more time with patients and provide more preventative care.
Independent advice on private healthcare