The number of people able to see a dentist in Ayrshire has plummeted in the last four years according to shock new figures.

Government body Public Health Scotland says only 52,192 dental examinations were carried out across Ayrshire and Arran in the first three months of this year, compared to 66,468 for the same period in 2019 - a fall of 21.5 per cent.

MSP Colin Smyth blamed difficulties in getting appointments on a shortage of dentists due to Brexit and lack of financial support from the Scottish Government.

Mr Smyth, a Labour MSP for the South Scotland region, said: “These shocking figures show once again that NHS dentistry in our region in in complete crisis.

“We are facing the double whammy of the UK Government’s Brexit, which has meant there are almost no EU dentists coming to the UK, and the Scottish Government’s failure to properly fund dentists.

“Both Governments have been warned this would happen but have failed to take adequate action.

"Unless they wake up to the crisis, I fear more and more people in our area will miss out on seeing an NHS dentist."

The Ayrshire figures also show that the numbers getting appointments had been dropping steadily - to below 60,000 - in the 12 months before lockdown.

Between March 2020 and June 2020, only emergencies were seen, but figures began to rise thereafter when restrictions were eased.

However the current figures are still below pre pandemic levels.

Mr Smyth added: “The future of NHS dentistry is at stake and the principles of our NHS are being undermined by the two-tier system emerging here.

“We cannot afford to keep ignoring this spiralling crisis. The SNP government must support the workforce and take the urgent action needed to bring services back from the brink.”

However the Scottish Government have denied there is a lack of access to dental services.

A spokesperson said: “While we recognise the access challenges in certain areas of Scotland, we have an excellent track record in growing the NHS dental workforce in Scotland.

"The longer-term trend shows an increase of 23 percent in dentists providing NHS dental services for the period 2007 to 2022, despite the incredibly challenging pandemic period, with disruptions to the education and training of dentists, as well as the impact of Brexit.

“Official statistics published this week show a significant recovery in NHS dental service provision from April last year, with over 3.7 million courses of treatment completed in 2022/23, an increase of more than 40 per cent compared with 2021/22, when IPC restrictions were in force.

“We are confident we will continue to see the continuation of this trend.”

NHS Ayrshire and Arran and the Scottish Dental Association have been approached for comment.