THOUSANDS of adults and children in Brighton and Hove are not seeing an NHS dentist regularly.
Latest figures reveal 145,426 people in the city saw an NHS dentist in the two years leading up to June this year, compared to 154,846 in the two years before March 2006.
This was when a new charging system was introduced, which led to large numbers of dentists leaving the NHS and made it more difficult for people to get an appointment.
People struggling financially may be another reason for the drop in patients.
The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal in East Sussex the number of people using a dentist rose from 288,136 to 295,3311 and in West Sussex it increased from 420,767 to 454,791.
New practices have been set up and services have been expanded in recent years, leading to a gradual rise in the number of patients getting treatment.
However Brighton and Hove still has a way to go hit the same levels as it was in 2006.
Regular dental checks can prevent or detect cavities, gum disease and mouth cancer.
A spokesman for NHS England said: “We are pleased that progress on improving access to NHS dentistry has been maintained and we are committed to making further progress.”
Patients can use the Sussex Dental Helpline on 0300 100 0899 to find a suitable service. It receives about 600 calls every month from patients in the Brighton and Hove area alone.
Patients are given details of practices with urgent access appointments or those accepting new patients for routine care.
The news follows a warning about patient access to NHS dentistry from the health consumer watchdog.
Healthwatch England said patients are being given “confusing and inaccurate” information about where they can get dental care on the NHS and many struggle to know where to turn.
Some patients are travelling further afield to find an NHS dentist while others get discouraged and end up paying for private treatment instead.