NHS dentistry has been deemed unfit for purpose according to a letter signed by over 400 dentists / Getty

According to NHS figures, half of adults and a third of children in England have not been to a dentist for two years

NHS dentistry in England is “unfit for purpose” with services in some places akin to “Third World” countries where charities are the best hope for poor people to get treatment, according to a letter signed by more than 400 dentists.

The letter, published by The Daily Telegraph, said it was a “disgrace” that the most likely reason for children under 10 to be admitted to hospital was because of rotten teeth.

And it pointed to the decision by the charity Dentaid, which normally provides treatment in developing countries, to open an emergency service for poor and vulnerable people in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire,

“The NHS dental system in England is unfit for purpose,” the dentists wrote.

“Far from improving, the situation has worsened to such an extent that charity groups normally associated with providing dental care in Third World arenas now have to do so in England.

“While we applaud groups such as Dentaid, which volunteer such services, their role serves to demonstrate the lack of a proper national dental strategy and service.

“When more than 90 per cent of all dental diseases can be prevented, it is also a disgrace that children aged under 10 in England are still more likely to be treated in hospital for rotten teeth than for any other medical reason.”

Dr Tony Kilcoyne, a specialist in prosthodontics from Haworth, West Yorkshire, who organised the letter, said dentistry was “like a Cinderella within the NHS”.

“There is a massive problem here and signs of this are that vulnerable children and vulnerable adults are falling through the gaps,” he said.

According to NHS figures, 48 per cent of the adult population and 31 per cent of children in England have not been to a dentist for two years.

About 62,500 people, including 46,400 children, require hospital treatment every year as a result of tooth decay.

However NHS England said: “These claims are wrong. More patients are getting the dental care they need and 93 per cent of people got an NHS dental appointment when they wanted one in the last 24 months.”