A Northern Ireland private dentist today sparked controversy by saying that the NHS should not fund treatment for self-inflicted problems caused by tooth decay and gum disease.
And Chris Loughridge also accused the Government of slowly squeezing NHS dentists out of the system through "nightmare conditions" such as bad pay and crippling red tape.
The Belfast dentist said that 99% of the work required on patients' teeth is caused by poor diet and bad standards of oral hygiene.
"Most dental disease is caused by neglect and if people took basic steps like brushing their teeth properly and having a good diet they would have few problems," he said.
"Tooth decay is caused by acid that is caused by eating food full of sugar. Gum disease is the main reason people lose their teeth. Smoking also adds to gum disease.
"It's simple. If people insist on inflicting disease on themselves, it's not fair that the rest of the population should have to pay for it."
The dentist's comments come just two weeks after Dr Mahendra Varma, a consultant cardiologist at the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, opened a similar debate when he argued that smokers should kick the habit before getting certain NHS procedures, such as a heart bypass.
The standard of dental health in Northern Ireland is among the worst in the UK and tends to be particularly bad in areas of high social deprivation.
Frances Dowds of the Northern Ireland Anti-Poverty Network asked "where do you draw the line in determining how people have contributed to a condition they need treatment for?"
"For people on a low income, fruit and vegetables and a good diet are an absolute luxury," she said.
"Good oral hygiene is a luxury. NHS dentistry is essential care for families with no or little income. Asking them to pay for treatment is yet another hard squeeze."
Mr Loughridge also spoke of the difficulties facing dentists working in the NHS.
"The whole approach from the Government seems to be 'oh, greedy dentists are leaving the NHS to make more money', but it's an absolute nightmare to be an NHS dentist," he said.
"I saw an NHS patient a few weeks ago to help out a colleague and for that I got the princely sum of £5.80. It doesn't cover very much. And then there's the red tape to claim it back."
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey recently announced an injection of £4.4m into health service dentistry and has said he plans to pilot individual dental contracts.