Millions of adults have not seen an NHS dentist for almost two years because they cannot find a practice that will accept them, according to research.
The survey found 34% of people in England and Wales have not visited a dentist since April 2006.
Lack of access to the NHS was the most commonly cited reason, mentioned by 31% of those who have not been to an NHS dentist since that time, the poll for Citizens Advice found.
Of the 65% who had been to the dentist, 64% had been to an NHS practice and 31% had paid for private care.
The charity said the findings suggested 7.4 million people had tried and failed to see an NHS dentist, with about 4.7 million seeking private care instead and 2.7 million going without treatment altogether.
Citizens Advice said it welcomed the 11% increase in government funding for NHS dentistry from this year.
It said: ‘This has the potential to deliver real improvements in access to dentistry but it needs to be carefully targeted on those areas where patients are experiencing the most acute problems.’
Health Minister Ann Keen said: ‘We are working hard to improve access to NHS dentists and the government remains fully committed to expanding services.’
She said 80% of primary care trusts had dedicated helplines for those struggling to find a local dentist, and anyone needing urgent dental care would receive help.
The crisis in NHS dentistry is this government’s hidden legacy
Norman LambLib Dem health spokesman
Liberal Democrat health secretary Norman Lamb said: ‘The crisis in NHS dentistry is this government’s hidden legacy. This survey directly contradicts the ministers’ repeated claims that more people than ever are seeing an NHS dentist.’
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