A Suffolk district has some of the lowest NHS dentist numbers in the country, according to data released by the Local Government Assocation (LGA).

The Mid Suffolk area has 0.067 dentists per 1,000, placing it fourth lowest among similar districts in England and only marginally better than Ashfield in Nottinghamshire, which has the lowest proportion with 0.062 dentists.

Campaigners from Toothless in Suffolk have described the lack of dental care in the county as a "sad state of affairs" as the statistics demonstrated a growing number of "dental deserts", as more places experience a shortage of NHS care.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 councils in England and Wales, found deprived and rural areas had fewer dentists than richer and more urban districts, with the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and City of Westminster having the highest proportion of NHS dentists.

The representative body has called on the Government to address the lack of dentists.

Reacting to the figures, Steve Marsling, co-founder of the Toothless group, said: “Sadly, I am not surprised because of the number of people that have been contacting the campaign saying ‘what can I possibly do’?

“People are ringing up in tears, people are saying ‘I can’t access a dentist, I can’t possibly go private’. People have tried the normal 111 system, but are being taken round the houses. There aren’t any NHS dentists around the country and in Suffolk”.

He repeated his call for Suffolk Coastal MP and new health secretary Therese Coffey to join round-the-table talks with the campaigners, adding her proposal to increase immigration to solve the shortage of dentists would have little impact.

Instead, he called for more dental schools providing training free of charge, including no tuition fees, but with the proviso that graduates had to work within the NHS for five to 10 years once they had qualified.

Dental contracts also needed to be revised as there was no incentive for professionals to undertake NHS care because of the poor pay compared to the private sector.

His fellow Toothless campaigner Darren Turner, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, which borders Mid Suffolk, said he had not been able to find an NHS dentist for himself and had only recently been able to find NHS care in Sudbury for his five-year-old child.

He said: “It is a sad state of affairs for people in Mid Suffolk and something needs to be done.

“Jo Churchill (MP for Bury) was the MP for dentistry until last year and Therese Coffey is the health secretary. They are both MPs for this area and yet nothing gets done.

“In a selfish way, you would think they would want to look after their constituents, so why don’t they do it?”

Thetford & Brandon Times: Bury St Edmunds MP Jo ChurchillBury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill (Image: Archant)

The LGA data, collected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and published as a rate per 1,000 residents on the LGA’s data platform, shows no local authority area in the country has more than one dentist providing NHS treatment per 1,000 people.

Selby in North Yorkshire was second lowest behind Ashfield, with 0.065, followed by Tamworth in Staffordshire (0.065), Mid Suffolk (0.067), Rochford in Essex (0.068), Ryedale in North Yorkshire (0.072), Bolsover in Derbyshire (0.074), Chelmsford in Essex (0.078), East Cambridgeshire (0.078) and South Derbyshire (0.082).

The best-served areas were Surrey Heath (0.224), Barnet in London (0.228), Richmond upon Thames (0.257), Elmbridge in Surrey (0.262), Camden (0.279), Hammersmith and Fulham (0.316), Kensington and Chelsea (0.325) and Westminster (0.374).

Thetford & Brandon Times: British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch has called for root and branch reform to save NHS dentistryBritish Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch has called for root and branch reform to save NHS dentistry (Image: British Dental Association)

British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch said: “The Government must be more ambitious in its plans to reform NHS dentistry.

“To save this service we need real commitment – root-and-branch reform and adequate funding.

“A broken contract is forcing dentists out of the NHS every day it remains in force. Tinkering at the margins will do nothing to help the patients who need us most.”