HUNDREDS of people queued for hours to register at a dental practice in Llangollen.

Pensioners, the wheelchair-bound and mothers with babies were among those desperate to sign up at Beauwood Dental Care so they could access locally-delivered treatment.

Some of those who queued from 7am yesterday (Thursday) say they had been forced to abandon dental treatment altogether after the former practice based at the same premises in Chapel Street shut around 18 months ago. Others say they travelled as far as Barmouth as they were unable to find NHS dental services at more local surgeries.

Health watchdog officials say the lack of NHS dentistry in many areas of North Wales often triggers a surge in demand when a new practice opens.

The lengthy queue built up down the pavement in Chapel Street and spilled around the corner into neighbouring Oak Street.

Maureen Richards, 70, of Llangollen says that as she and her husband don't drive they find it difficult travelling to dental practices in Ruthin, Corwen and Wrexham.

She said she hoped to register as an NHS patient and noted: "You get the check-up free at our age, but any treatment we pay for. The old dental clinic closed suddenly and we've not been to one since."

John Griffiths, 61, said he was surprised that there was no dentist in Llangollen to register with after he moved to the town from Holywell.

He had taken a day off work to register with the new practice and admitted: "I've got a pain in my back tooth so I knew I had to come down. It's a very big queue and there have been people waiting since 7.30 this morning. I've only moved ten yards in an hour, but it will be worth it.

"The new dentist has said he will be doing NHS patients when he gets the contract in December, although my work does have Denplan."

Pam Williams-Hughes, 75, said: "You need a dentist full stop. This is civilised country, but we are standing here like cattle queuing for a dentists."

Mother-of-three Rebecca Roberts, 36, from Corwen, says she was registered with the former practice and wanted to register her baby Eli.

"I'm entitled to free dental care because my daughter is seven-and-a-half months old. But I've been trying for the last year to get in somewhere," she said.

For Gerard and Helen Hodkinson the opening of the new practice will mean an end to their 100-mile round trip from Llangollen to Barmouth for treatment.

Gerard, 66, said: "It was crazy particularly as sometimes we were only going there for five minutes for a check-up - but were glad to get in somewhere.

"I'm prepared to queue for hours to be honest, it is better than driving for miles."

A sign outside the new practice bears the professional details of dentist Dr. Rob Woodward, but the surgery's phone number is currently closed while registration of patients takes place in person on November 1 and 2.

North Wales Community Health Council Chief Officer Geoff Ryall-Harvey said: "Some areas are hotspots where it is very difficult to get registered. The issue is that many dentists don't find the NHS payment scheme particularly attractive. But when new practices are opened up by young dentists they offer NHS places to build up numbers.

"Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has tried to encourage practices to set up as NHS dentists, but they are independent contractors and they will do what is best for themselves."