A SHOCK survey today revealed that at least 24,000 people in Huddersfield are without a dentist.
And health experts claim it leaves many of them at greater risk of tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer.
The research, carried out on behalf of Yorkshire healthplan provider LHF, revealed thousands in the town have been hit by the national dental crisis.
Those not registered with a dentist may be missing out on vital oral health checks to keep their teeth and gums healthy.
Health officials concede that large numbers of people in Huddersfield have not registered, but said the situation here is better than in other parts of the country.
Dentists no longer need to register patients, but this will not prevent them from keeping lists of regular patients.
The report follows recent revelations that there could be a wait of at least eight months to see an NHS dentist in Huddersfield.
The findings also highlight that of those registered with an NHS dentist, more than 72% were concerned about the possibility of their dentist going private leaving them without NHS treatment and the prospect of rising bills.
Checks with NHS Direct today revealed that is still the case.
The lack of dentists is hitting Yorkshire hard and the new dental reforms that came into effect just weeks ago may not help the situation.
The new contract states that NHS dentists must meet annual targets with the aim of increasing quality time with patients.
However, it has been met with anger by several NHS dentists resulting in many turning their back on the NHS and going private.
LHF Healthplan's director of marketing, Jane Fenwick, said: "We carried out the research to see exactly how the national dental crisis is affecting Yorkshire and it is shocking to see that in 2006, over 24,000 people in Huddersfield are still without a dentist.
"Cost is a worry for those that do have access to a dentist and it's understandable that 37% of people tend to steer clear of the dentist if they feel nothing is wrong for fear of the bills."
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, added: "This figure shows, gaining access to a dentist is a real problem for many people. Remember, the 24,000 are just the people who know they are not registered - the true figure is probably higher, as people find out their dentists have brought in contracts.
"As an organisation we make comprehensive oral health advice freely available to the public.
"However, having a regular check up with a dentist, whether that be NHS or private, is vital to maintaining good health."
Jini D'Cruz, consultant in Dental Public Health for Huddersfield and Calderdale, said: "We are aware of the fact that a large number of people in Huddersfield are not registered with a dentist.
"However, the percentage of registrations is higher than the national average.
"In Huddersfield Central our figures show that 64% of children and adults are registered, while in South Huddersfield the figure is 57%.
"Those compare with a West Yorkshire average of 56% and a national average of 50%."