The run-down of NHS dentistry over the past decade could be a blessing in disguise, according to a controversial review published by the Consumers'Association earlier this month.

The study, by Professor Aubrey Sheiham of University College London, says there is no evidence that the traditional six-month check-up does any good. If children under 18 saw the dentist every 18 months and adults every two to three years, up to£120m a year could be saved, it says.

Improved use of fluoride toothpaste, better oral hygiene and baby-feeding practices are credited for improvements in oral health.

'Contrary to the demand for more dentists by the British Dental Association, significant reductions in dentist manpower are necessary. There have been marked improvements in oral health in recent years and demand for traditional dentistry will start to fade in the next decade, 'the report says.