What is an NHS dentist?

A man in a dental surgery. Copyright: Dreamstime
An NHS dentist is a dentist who has agreed to provide NHS dental services. Dentists can choose how much or how little NHS work they do and most do a mixture of NHS and private work.

Check with your dentist at the outset to see if they are able to accept you for treatment as a patient of the practice.

How do I access a local dentist?

The local Dental Advice Line can help you find an NHS dentist. To contact the advice line call 0800 298 5787. It is open between 9am and 5pm Monday to Thursday, and 9am and 4.30pm on Fridays.

If you require urgent dental treatment (regardless of whether or not you are registered with a dentist) see below.

What do I do if I need emergency dental treatment?

If you require emergency dental treatment and you have your own dentist, please contact him/her in the first instance. If you do not have a dentist and you think you need emergency dental treatment either during or out of office hours, please phone 111 and give details of your condition. If appropriate you will be offered an appointment at a local treatment session.

What can I expect from my dentist?

Dentists provide regular check ups on your teeth and gums. Part of their work involves teaching people to look after their teeth and gums in order to prevent problems. It also includes restoration of teeth damaged or lost by decay, trauma or other reasons, using a wide variety of techniques and materials.

Dental practices can take private and NHS patients, and most practices take a mixture of both. It is important to ring your dentist to confirm the services that they provide before you make an appointment.

It is very important to attend your regular dental appointments as this will ensure you remain dentally fit.

Your dentist will decide how often you need to attend for an examination. In line with your dental needs, this interval may range from three to eighteen months.

As a general rule, if you need to change or cancel an appointment we ask that you give at least 24 hours notice but please check with your practice as to their cancellation procedure. If you don’t, or simply fail to attend without a suitable reason, your dentist may choose to remove you as a patient of the practice.

All dentist staff aim to treat patients with respect, and we ask the same in return for our staff. Please be aware that your dentist can remove you from their practice if you are abusive or violent to the dental team.

NHS or private care?

At the outset your dentist will agree with you whether your treatment will be under the NHS, or private, or a mixture of both. If you are not sure at any time, do not hesitate to ask your dentist or receptionist.

NHS and private treatment can meet all your clinical needs – that means the treatment which is necessary to secure and maintain your oral health. You may want, and your dentist may suggest, private treatment which goes beyond that – white fillings in back teeth, for example. Either way your dentist should make sure that you are aware whether you are receiving care under the NHS or privately. If you are receiving NHS treatment, your dentist should give you a form to sign and either way you should receive an estimate of what treatment you require and the cost.

The cost of NHS dental treatment

The cost of NHS dental treatment is set by the government and you will pay the same whichever dental practice you choose to go to.

You will be charged on three bands of treatment for NHS care:

Band 1

This covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish and planning for further treatment – £19.70.

Band 2

This covers all treatment listed in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions) – £53.90.

Band 3

This covers all treatment covered by Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges – £233.70.

Urgent treatment

Urgent treatment, when you need to see a dentist immediately, costs the same as band 1 treatment – £19.70.

Fees for private dental care vary between dentists and depend, for example, on the quality of materials and dental laboratory work you choose, as well as general practice running expenses. Information on the cost of private care at the practice is available from your dentist or receptionist.

Are dentists obliged to take on NHS patients?

All UK residents are entitled to NHS dental treatment, however, dentists are not obliged to take on any individual. Dentists are independent practitioners and can choose how much NHS and private dental care they provide.

Making a complaint about a dental practice

If you are unhappy about any part of your treatment please contact your dental practice in the first instance.

Useful links

British Dental Association
British Orthodontic Society
British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
Mouth Cancer Foundation