THOUSANDS of people could be at risk of illnesses including mouth cancer because of a "shambolic" government contract, dentists claim today.
Some practices had to turn people away this year because health bosses ran out of money to pay them.
It means thousands of people missed regular checks that could detect earlystage oral cancer and gum disease.
Dentists were given new contracts last year in a bid to improve NHS access.
They now receive the same money for treating fewer patients to get away from a "drill-and-fill" culture and attract more dentists to the National Health Service.
Primary care trusts, which "buy" care for their communities, were also given responsibility for the 2.3 billion national budget.
But strict limits on how many NHS patients can be treated and a shortfall in fees left many people without an appointment.
The Government's chief dental officer, Barry Cockcroft, is today releasing a report into the first year of reform.
The Department of Health insists "good things" have come out of the changes and said warnings of mouth cancer risk were alarmist.
But dentists and politicians today issued fresh alerts that the contract was creating a health timebomb.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, who runs London's largest NHS dental practice, in Fulham, said: "I am being prevented from treating as many patients as I would like.
There are thousands of people missing out just because there is a limit on the numbers I can treat.
"We want to give as many patients as we can good quality treatment on the NHS but the new contract is stopping us. It has not gone well at all." He said any suggestion the contract had improved care for patients was "just spin".
Dentists at his 11-strong Fulham practice had to be sent on a two- week holiday in March because they had reached their quota of patients. …