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Consumer Rights.

What NHS dental treatment am I entitled to?

Many high street dentists provide both NHS and private dental treatment, so it’s important to understand what NHS treatment you’re entitled to.
Which?Editorial team

The NHS in your region

The NHS is organised differently in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For example, the NHS Constitution only applies in England. 

Check the most relevant information for where you live:

For all regions, find out how to get the best from your dentist.

Read on for information on treatment and pricing entitlement in England.

Who can get NHS dental treatment?

We’re all entitled to the NHS treatment we need to keep our mouth, teeth and gums healthy and pain-free. 

So if treatment is clinically necessary, you should be able to get it on the NHS. Your dentist should discuss any treatment that you need with you, explaining the potential benefits and costs.

What treatments are included?

NHS dental treatments include:

  • dentures
  • root-canal treatment
  • crowns and bridges
  • fillings
  • preventive treatment (such as a scale and polish, when needed)
  • orthodontic (teeth straightening) treatment for children and young people aged under 18.

The NHS will not cover cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, which improve the appearance of teeth but are not clinically necessary.

Your dentist should make the costs and benefits clear before you start treatment. 

Lots of people decide to have a mixture of both NHS and private treatment from their dentist. Your treatment plan should include a breakdown of NHS and private costs if you are having both.

Your NHS dentist is not allowed to refuse you treatment that is available on the NHS and then offer it to you privately instead. 

Key Information

Treatment in England summary

  • We’re all entitled to NHS treatment to keep our mouth, teeth and gums healthy and pain-free

  • Many high street dentists provide both private and NHS treatment, so check that you’re being seen as an NHS patient
  • If you need to have treatment, make sure you receive a written treatment plan
  • If you've been pressured into paying for private dental treatment, you can complain about the dentist

What about scale and polish?

If your dentist suggests a scale and polish or a trip to the hygienist, make sure you understand whether it’s clinically necessary or not. 

If treatment is clinically necessary, you should be able to have it on the NHS without an extra charge.

Your dental examination

In your dental examination the dentist should:

  • examine your mouth, teeth and gums
  • ask about your health in general and any dental problems since your last visit
  • ask about and advise on diet, smoking and drinking
  • ask about the way you clean your teeth and give advice on keeping them healthy
  • explain risks and costs of any treatment you may need

Your dentist should also give you advice about when your next visit should be. 

Although many of us assume this should be every six months, depending on your dental health your next visit could be due anytime from between three months to two years.

The cost of NHS dental treatment

People in certain groups are entitled to free NHS dental treatment, including those under 18, those under 19 still receiving full-time education, pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the last 12 months, and those on qualifying low-income benefits.

Otherwise, there are three standard NHS price bands. You should only pay once for each course of dental treatment. 

The bands cover:

Band 1 is £22.70  Examination, diagnosis (eg x-rays), preventive advice, a scale and polish if needed, application of fluoride varnish or fissure sealant. Urgent care, even if your appointment needs more than one appointment to complete.

Band 2 is £62.10  Everything listed in Band 1, plus further treatment such as fillings, root-canal work and extractions.

Band 3 is £269.30  Everything listed in Bands 1 and 2, plus crowns, dentures and bridges.

These costs apply from 1 April 2019 and are part of the Department of Health uplift in dental charges, which started in April 2016.

Do I have to pay for work done to my teeth after each appointment?

No. You will not be charged for individual parts of work after each appointment if they are part of a wider course of treatment. You will only ever pay once for your course of treatment and this payment will be at the end once all of the work is done.

For example, you may need a course of treatment which requires you to have a filling and root-canal work at different times.

In this example, you would only pay once you have had both the filling and the root canal work done, as they are both included in your course of treatment.

Depending on what you need to have done, you should only ever be asked to pay one charge for each complete course of treatment, even if you need to visit your dentist more than once to finish it.

You may have to pay at the end of an appointment if you’ve asked for a problem to be fixed which isn’t part of your course of treatment.

Will I be charged if I miss my NHS dentist appointment?

Dentists can’t charge fees for missed NHS appointments according to NHS Choices.

But while dentists can’t charge for missed appointments, it is worth bearing in mind that the dental practice is allowed to refuse future appointments with you if you are repeatedly late for your treatment sessions or fail to attend appointments.

Missing your appointment may result in early termination of your course of treatment.  

Will I be charged if I miss my private dentist appointment?

If you are having a private course of treatment and miss an appointment, there is nothing stopping private practices from imposing a charge for missed private appointments.

Because of this, it is advisable to discuss your treatment options, ask for an estimated cost of the proposed treatment and understand in advance what the consequences would be if you missed that appointment.

Can my dentist charge me for a missed appointment for private and NHS treatment?

The fee should only apply to the private aspect of the work done, as dentists can’t charge for missed treatments offered on the NHS.

It would be a good idea to check the agreement you have with your practice from the outset of your treatment sessions to make sure you understand what charges they could ask for if you missed your appointment.

How can I find an NHS dentist?

You can search the NHS Choices website to find an NHS dentist near you, and view feedback from other patients. You don’t have to visit a dentist where you live. It might be easier, for example, to pick a dentist near your workplace.

You can get recommendations from friends or family, or check out recommendations for dentist surgeries on the NHS Choices website.

If you can’t find an NHS dentist, contact your local  NHS England Area Team (or the equivalents in other UK countries).