An NHS dentist from Kent who is retiring from the profession after 33 years has launched an attack on the state of NHS dentistry.
Paul McGlone has been treating patients for 33 years
When Paul McGlone shuts his Hawkhurst practice next month, 3,000 patients will have to find another dentist.
Mr McGlone said those people who cannot afford private treatment will probably have to go without.
The local primary care trust said a new medical centre in nearby Staplehurst will provide two full-time dentists.
The Maidstone and Weald Primary Care Trust recognised there was a shortage across the area but said extra government funding had helped fund more NHS places.
The trust said some private dentists get extra money for treating NHS patients as well.
But Mr McGlone insisted there will be insufficient dentists to cope with his patients and the hundreds of others looking for NHS treatment.
"The quality of their teeth will go down inevitably, and if they have decay problems then the decay won't be treated and they'll end up in pain.
"I think it's catastrophic and in interminable decline," he said.
Barry Taylor, a patient at the Hawkhurst surgery said: "Although it is a wealthy area, we're not all wealthy round here so we do need the NHS."
The Kent and Medway Strategic Health Authority (KMSHA) said the shortage was a national problem but it was particularly bad in the South East.
Out of 263 dental surgeries in Kent, only 26 are currently taking on new NHS patients, while in East Sussex only 51 of the 142 dentists are accepting new patients.
A spokesman from the KMSHA said more than £1m had been invested in NHS dentistry in the last year.
In addition, eight dentists from Poland are due to arrive in the next few weeks to ease the problem in Kent.