NHS dental treatment

Got toothache but fear the cost of treatment will hurt more? Before you attempt your own tooth extraction, did you know you’re entitled to see an NHS dentist? Here’s what you need to know.

Man seeing a dentist

My what beautiful teeth you have

What’s the difference between a private and an NHS dentist?

As with all private medicine, it’s a question of you get what you pay for. In terms of dental treatment this usually boils down to the types of treatment and materials used. For example, private dentists give you white fillings, rather than the NHS silver ones.

That’s not to say you’ll get shoddy fillings or treatment on the NHS. You’ll often find the same dentist offers both private and NHS treatment, so the level of expertise and care will be no different.

How do I find an NHS dentist?

They’ll be a few dentists listed in your area, you can find them here. You just have to phone round to see which ones offer NHS treatment and are taking on new patients. You’ll probably find many have filled their quota of NHS patients, but don’t let that put you off. Just keep phoning until you find one.

Then all you need to do is make an appointment. It’s best to register with a dentist before you get horrific toothache. They can give you regular check-ups to ensure you don’t get toothache in the first place. In Northern Ireland you’ll need to take your Medical Card along and request to be treated under the NHS.

Is NHS dental treatment free?

Not for everyone. NHS treatment is only free if you’re:

  • under 18
  • under 19 and in full-time education
  • pregnant or you’ve had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts
  • staying in an NHS hospital and the hospital dentist carries out your treatment
  • an NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient (although you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges)
  • claiming benefits
  • entitled to a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate, or you have a valid HC2 certificate

How much does seeing an NHS dentist cost?

This depends on the state of your teeth and what you’re going in for. A routine check-up won’t be very much, but a more serious treatment, such as a crown, will set you back quite a bit. The NHS has three price bands:

  • Band 1 (£18): This covers basic check-ups and includes X-rays, a scale and polish and planning for further treatment if necessary.
  • Band 2 (£49): This includes all treatment covered by band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and extractions.
  • Band 3 (£214): This includes all of the above, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

How often you attend depends on the state of your teeth. If you have good oral health, you’ll only need to be seen once a year (or sometimes two years).

When you see your dentist they’ll advise you on what’s necessary and the cost.

What if I need extra work that isn’t covered by the NHS?

Under the NHS, you’re only entitled to treatment that is ‘clinically necessary’. So if you need a specialist root canal, a whitening treatment, or fancy a set of gold teeth to rival Jay Z’s, you’ll have to cough up.

To avoid confusion over what is and isn’t covered by the NHS, all services must be clearly listed by your dentist.

If you require additional, private treatment, your dentist must explain this clearly and get your consent before carrying out the work.

What if I need emergency or urgent treatment?

Again, the cost depends on the treatment required. An initial emergency appointment to see what’s wrong should only cost band 1. However, you may be advised to come back for a non-urgent appointment. In this case, the relevant band charge will apply.

If you’re worried about the cost of your treatment always talk to your dentist, as they may let you pay in installments.


Picture of a man and a dentist by Shutterstock

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NHS| teeth


Updated on 29-Sep-2015