Unions have warned NHS dentistry is "hanging by a thread" with some patients facing two-year waits for routine check-ups.

The latest data from NHS England and NHS Wales shows over 2,500 dentists - up to eight per cent of the workforce - stopped treating NHS patients last year.

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Linda Wake, an NHS patient from Hampshire, has been trying to book an appointment for two years.

She said: "I cant book an appointment as previous dentist left and they have not managed to recruit another. I have now not had a routine check for over two years and am now at the point where I need emergency treatment rather than preventive treatment."

The British Dental Association (BDA) said unhappiness with the NHS dental contract was a key factor.

The number of NHS dentists in two English clinical commissioning group areas (CCGs) fell by more than a quarter in the year ending March 31, 2021.

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The worst-affected was NHS Portsmouth CCG, which lost 26 per cent of its NHS dentists over 12 months, meanwhile, 28 other English CCGs have lost at least 10 per cent of their NHS dentists.

Staff levels have decreased following the Covid-19 pandemic, while NHS England has admitted to recruitment struggles.

The BDA’s Shawn Charlwood warned significant numbers of dentists were planning on leaving the NHS, he said: “NHS dentistry is hanging by a thread, because without NHS dentists, there will be no NHS dentistry.

“It’s a really serious situation and every dentist that is lost or every vacancy for NHS dentistry that remains unfilled affects thousands of patients in terms of care and their ability to access care.

"Years of failed contracts and underfunding have meant a growing number of dentists no longer see the NHS as a place to build a career. The pandemic has upped the ante, and we are now facing down an exodus.

"Ministers have failed to grasp that we can't have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists.

“Rather than punishing colleagues, we need a service that recognises and rewards commitment.”

There have been growing concerns about the usefulness of NHS England’s "Find a Dentist" tool, which was created to help patients find an NHS dentist in their area.

BBC analysis shows around 75 per cent of practices in England had not updated the site to show whether they were accepting NHS patients or not within the last three months.

Interim director of Healthwatch Chris McCann said getting up to date information as to where people can access service is a “real issue”.

“Information on practices on the NHS website can be out-dated,” he added. “We've seen some people having to contact up to 20 practices before finding someone to take them.”

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