There might be waiting lists and a growing demand for NHS dental treatment, but officials at a new Midland practice are asking 'where have all the patients gone?'
The Oldbury Dental Centre, based in the Oldbury Health Centre's £1.1 million Dental Suite, opened its doors in October last year. Its aim was to combat the growing number of people in the Black Country without access to an NHS dentist.
But although many practices in the region have lengthy waiting lists, the centre in Albert Street has so far managed to attract a total of 750 patients - and is seeking 3,000 more.
The centre is a joint venture between NHS dental surgeon Dr Skheeta Vora, salaried staff from the Sandwell Primary Care Trust and the Birmingham Dental Hospital.
Owned by the PCT, it offers NHS dentistry services to Oldbury residents and is used as a teaching facility for Birmingham Dental School students.
Dr Vora said she could not understand why the practice, described as the first of its kind in the region by the PCT during its launch, had attracted so few people.
She said this meant fewer people were receiving the treatment they needed and in the long-term she would not be able to fulfil the requirements of her NHS contract.
"I don't know what happened," she said. "I need new patients coming through the door.
"We are extremely quiet for an NHS dental practice because no one knows we are here.
"We can cater for at least 2,500 to 3,000 more patients over the next year.
"It is a state-of-the-art dental department. It has digital radiology and it is fully computerised.
"I read something a couple of days ago on the internet saying there is no access to NHS dentists and I was thinking 'I am so quiet. How come people aren't being filtered to me'?
"I don't think the system is a good one really."
Last night a Sandwell PCT spokeswoman said press releases had been issued and posters produced to raise awareness for the practice.