Primary care trusts must do more to promote telephone helplines for patients trying to find a dentist, the Citizen's Advice Bureau has said.
The comments come after a mystery shopping exercise carried out by the bureau found that although 72 per cent of callers overall reported that they were satisfied with the service they received, satisfaction was lower in areas with shortages.
Callers in these areas often reported that they were not able to speak to an adviser.
The researchers also found that dental helplines need to keep informed of new commissioning to give callers an idea of the length of possible waiting lists, and keep information up to date as existing practices open and close their lists.
And the CAB says it is important to give callers a choice of dentist where possible, rather than just providing one number.
'Failing at the first hurdle'
The CAB said in a report: "The helpline may provide an excellent service, but if the people who most need that service don't know of its existence, then it is failing at the first hurdle.
"It will not be adequate to rely on people firstly having access to the internet and secondly being able to find the appropriate website in order to locate the telephone number - a process which may well exclude many of the people most in need of dentistry."
To read the report, go to www.dh.gov.uk