Younger dentists are increasingly turning their back on NHS work, new data has suggested.

The proportion of income from NHS work by dentists under 35 years old has nearly halved in a five-year period, the figures from the NHS Information Centre have shown.

In 2000/01, 64.7 per cent of the income of dentists under the age of 35 came from the NHS, but by 2005/06 this figure was 36 per cent.

This compared to figures showing that dentists aged 55 years and over received 58 per cent of their income from the NHS in 2000/01, but by 2005/06 it had fallen to 47.4 per cent.

Dentists aged 45 to 54 saw a fall from 54.6 per cent to 44 per cent in the proportion of their income from NHS work in the same period.

The statistics come from a report, Dental Earnings And Expenses, Great Britain, 2005/06.

It warns that the statistics for dentists under 35 in 2005/06 were based on a small sample of just 52 men.

The data have been released after a poll for Citizens Advice Bureau found that millions of adults have not seen an NHS dentist for almost two years because they cannot find a practice that will accept them.

The survey, released in January, found 34 per cent 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. Of the 65 per cent who had been to the dentist, 64 per cent had been to an NHS practice and 31 per cent had paid for private care.

The CAB 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.