Dental care scene in the UK is a nightmare. Half its population has received no dental care on the NHS in the last two years.
And thousands of suffering patients are turning up at hospital emergency departments for treatment because they cannot find an NHS dentist.
Shocking figures seen by the Daily Mail suggest there have been 27,000 more hospital admissions since the Government bungled the introduction of a new contract for dentists.
Tory health spokesman Andrew Lansley said: "We know that there are people out there who are pulling out their own teeth because they can't find a NHS dentist."
In total, 23,161,368 people in England - almost half the population - received no dental care on the Health Service in the two years up to last September.
That is an increase of 840,342 - or 4 per cent - since the introduction of the contract in 2006.
The revelations will deepen concern about the service almost a decade after the Government pledged all patients would have access to treatment on the Health Service within two years.
Lansley, who obtained the statistics, said: "These shocking figures are proof that Labour can't negotiate a contract with NHS professionals.
"Dentists are being forced out of the NHS and some patients clearly have no other option but to take their dental problems to hospital A&E, a service which is already under great pressure."
Michael Summers, of the Patients Association, said: "This really is a scandal. People tell us it is almost impossible to find an NHS dentist in many parts of the country.
"So they either have to find the money to pay for private treatment or they go without check-ups and treatment for years on end.
"There are real dangers in that, because one of the objects of regular check-ups is to identify infections or signs of oral cancers."
The figures, from the NHS Information Centre, show that as the number of people without an NHS dentist has increased, so the number of admissions to hospital for dental treatment has gone up.
The East Midlands has seen the biggest increase in those without an NHS dentist for two years or more - eight per cent - and also a 20 per cent rise in hospital admissions for dental treatment, the biggest in the country.
Last year there were nearly 240,000 such hospital admissions - up six per cent since the introduction of the Government contract aimed at simplifying patient charges and allowing more patients to register with the NHS.
It created just three bands of treatment - £15.90 for a basic examination and X-rays, £43.60 for root canal work or other treatment, and £194 for construction work such as crowns.
That means patients face a minimum charge of £15.90, where previously they could pay as little as £6 for a check-up.
Dentists complain the contract does not reflect the amount of work they actually carry out - for example, they receive the same amount of money regardless of whether they provide a patient with two fillings or ten.
Many have left the NHS, complaining they are not being properly paid.
Last year, a survey found that one in 20 patients had resorted to DIY treatment, in some cases pulling out their own teeth.
One patient in Lancashire claimed to have removed 14 teeth using pliers.
Overall, the survey found that almost half of NHS dentists were not accepting any more patients.
Earlier this month Elizabeth Green, 76, from Winchester, Hampshire, told how she was turned away by 12 dentists.
As a result the grandmother, who was in agony with two front teeth, pulled them out herself.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We are working hard to improve access to NHS dentists and the Government remains fully committed to expanding services.
"Access to an NHS dentist has remained broadly stable since the introduction of the new contract.
"No one can receive dental treatment in hospital without seeing their dentist first.
"Routine dental treatment is not carried out in hospitals, and referral to hospital for secondary treatment is done purely on clinical need.
"Anybody having difficulty finding a dentist should contact their local primary care trust."