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We frequently hear that an NHS dentist is hard to find.

Perhaps this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As people believe it is impossible to register with a dentist, they don't try.

But as we report today, at least two practices are short of thousands of patients - and are desperate for them to sign up.

In a sense, this is good news. The great dentist shortage appears to be something of a myth, at least in Birmingham, and those people who don't receive regular check-ups should make the most of this opportunity.

They won't even need to queue around the block to sign up as patients.

In fact, any of our readers who knows someone without a dentist might consider encouraging them to register swiftly.

The danger is that the practices could be forced to close, or at least could lose their NHS contracts, because they don't have enough patients.

It may be that more could be done to publicise the services available. This is an occasion when politicians and NHS officials could legitimately provide useful information to the public and boast about their success at the same time.

It does appear that in some other parts of the country, there may be a genuine shortage of dentists.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Government is to ensure that everyone has access to affordable dental care.

Even though emergency care should already be available to all, preventative treatment is just as important here as in any other form of healthcare.

This is, of course, an issue previous governments have also failed to solve.

But to what extent the problem is too few dentists, or simply reluctance on the part of patients to sign up, is unclear.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 17, 2008
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