A private firm has been hired to help NHS Grampian gets its teeth into a year-long backlog of patients.
The Aberdeen Clinic will be paid more than £500,000 to assess and treat dental patients over the next six months.
Help has been brought in to tackle mounting waiting lists in the oral and maxillofacial surgical department.
Health board bosses hope 1,000 out-patients could be treated at NHS Grampian’s hospitals by the Cults-based firm’s staff before the beginning of April.
It is expected around 700 of those will have teeth removed.
Last night, health campaigners said the situation should never been allowed to “reach this point” but welcomed the news action was being taken.
At the beginning of last month, waiting lists for routine tooth extractions were well over a year, as outpatients waiting 69 weeks for treatment.
Adult patients needing to go into hospital faced a wait of 39 weeks while inpatients awaiting treatment at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital have been on the list for 54 weeks.
The Aberdeen Clinic’s staff will have access to assessment rooms and facilities for local anaesthetic operations, as well as operating under general anaesthetic in NHS theatres.
The additional weekend clinics will be fully staffed by the private firm, which is receiving £503,750 for the service.
The business, as part of a wider private group TAC Healthcare, boasts on its website of a “proven track record” of helping the NHS to reduce waiting lists.
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We have a significant number of people awaiting dental extractions, following a referral from their own dentist.
“In order to clear the backlog, this contract has been awarded to The Aberdeen Clinic to carry out inspections and further treatment if necessary.
“In the longer term we hope to develop our capacity to perform this work in-house, but we are keen to reduce the number of patients waiting in the meantime.”
Professor Jamie Weir, spokesman for NHS Grampian patient group Pact, said: “This is a situation which really should not have been allowed to reach this point and unfortunately, yet again shows the under-resourcing of services in the north-east.
“However, the use of any service which cuts the waiting lists down to reasonable lengths is welcome, providing that the standards of care are acceptable, monitored and audited.
“Some of these patients will require continuing care and follow-up and the pathways for this to occur must be in place.”
North-east MSP Lewis Macdonald voiced some concern at the need for calling in private help though.
The Labour member said: “However the decision to place a contract of this kind with a private provider for basic dental services in Grampian will cause a good deal of concerns to patients.
“It would be good to see £500,000 instead invested on staff and training within the NHS.”