If you visit your dentist as an NHS patient, you're entitled to receive all the NHS treatment you clinically need to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy and pain-free.
How NHS dental charges work
There are three standard NHS treatment bands in England:
Band one (£23.80) – This covers treatment including a clinical examination, diagnosis (including x-rays), scale and polish (if needed), application of fluoride or fissure sealant and preventative advice.
Band two (£65.20) – Includes everything in band one, plus further treatment such as non-surgical gum treatment, fillings, root-canal work and tooth removal.
Band three (£282.80) – Includes everything in bands one and two, plus treatments made in a lab, such as crowns, bridges, orthodontic treatments and appliances, dentures and bridges.
Prices rose in December 2020.
You should pay only one charge for a course of treatment, even if you visit the dentist a few times – so three fillings and a crown recommended on the same treatment plan would all be covered by the band three £269.30 charge (a crown would take you into band three).
Wales has a similar banding system to England, with the equivalent of band one charged at £14.70, band two at £47 and band three at £203.
Northern Ireland and Scotland have the same system: the charge to the NHS patient is 80% of the dentist's fee to a maximum of £384.
Five things you need to know about NHS dental charges
If you need a treatment you should not be expected to pay privately, although your dentist should explain suitable private options you can consider. Dentists are not allowed to refuse any treatment available on the NHS but then offer it privately, or to suggest that NHS treatment is inferior.
If you go to a dentist that offers both NHS and private treatments, and you need a treatment such as root-canal work, you should not be asked to pay for it privately. However, your dentist should explain suitable private options you can consider. You may choose to have the treatment privately.
Certain people get free dental care, including those who are pregnant; those under 18 (or under 19 in full-time education); and those entitled to certain income-related benefits.
If you need band two or three treatment, and pay dental charges (in other words, are not exempt from charges), you should be given a written treatment plan.
Your dentist should have a prominently displayed price list in the surgery – if you don't see it, ask.
Finding an NHS dentist
See the NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) in England to search for a dentist (or NHS Wales, NHS24 in Scotland, and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland), and get more information on NHS treatment. There are patient ratings for dental surgeries on the NHS Choices website and on Which? Local at which.co.uk/local.
Questions you should ask
Before the appointment
How much will it cost?
Will x-rays be included (if you’re paying privately)?
During the appointment
What are my dental problems?
Can you explain my treatment options?
What are the pros and cons, or risks and benefits, of each option?
What are my NHS and private options – and costs associated with each?
What would happen if I don’t have the treatment?
When do I have to pay?
How long will it take?
Is the work guaranteed for a length of time?
If I’m unhappy with the results, who pays for the work to correct problems?
If there are complications and I need more treatment, will there be extra charges?
What can I do to prevent further problems?
What can you do to help me prevent further problems?
How can I contact you if needed after treatment?
How to complain about your dentist
Step 1: Informal resolution
If you’ve got concerns or complaints about NHS or private treatment, as your first step ask your dentist or dental practice to investigate. They should take it seriously and are required to have a complaints procedure.
However, if your complaint is about a dental professional’s ability, behaviour or health, contact the UK-wide professional regulator the General Dental Council on 020 7167 6000.
Step 2: Taking it further
If you’re an NHS dental patient, you can complain to NHS England (or the national equivalent in Wales or Scotland), as it commissions dental services. See www.nhs.uk.
The Care Quality Commission also regulates dental practices in England (separate regulators in UK countries), but doesn’t deal with individual complaints – although it encourages patients to feed back issues.