Private dental costs 'vary wildly'Dental prices put Which?'s teeth on edge

24 February 2011

paying a dentist bill

Which? research reveals that private dental prices can vary by hundreds of pounds, and it's not always easy to know what's included in the consultation or to get the clear pricing information you need to shop around.

Unclear pricing

In May 2010, Which? mystery shoppers called 423 private dental practices and found prices varied wildly – from £45 to £124 for an initial check-up and £250 to £518 for a crown. 

We also discovered that patients need to question what’s included in an initial check-up – only 56% of practices included the cost of an X-ray and just 19% a scale and polish. 

When the Office of Fair Trading investigated private dentists in 2003, it said they should display their prices clearly. But when we sent mystery shoppers to surgeries across England,only seven out of 40 had prices displayed. 

It’s also good practice to give patients a treatment plan and cost estimate before work begins – but our February 2010 survey of 1,821 patients who’d had private treatment in the previous two years found that fewer than half remembered being given this.

Don't get caught out

  • When you book your check-up, ask what will be included in the cost.
  • If a price seems particularly high, question it. We found that four in five of you don't shop around for dental treatment and over one in four of you getting a mixture of NHS and private treatment didn't know which was which - you can always ask for a breakdown of what you're getting.

We can help if you want advice about looking for an NHS dentist, or about a stay in hospital.

Share experiences

We’re keen to hear your experiences of private dentistry – good or bad. Email the health editor or write to them at Which?, 2 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 4DF.

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