In England, the NHS Choices website is designed to be the central place where everyone can find a dentist.
However, Which? research has shown that, depending on where you live, you may still have to ring around to find a dental practice to take you as a new patient.
In other UK countries, NHS dentist-finder services include NHS Wales, NHS24 in Scotland, and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland.
You are not bound to a catchment area as you would be with a GP. Simply find a practice that’s convenient for you, whether near home or work, and phone it to see whether any appointments are available.
You shouldn’t be asked to pay a deposit before booking an NHS appointment.
You shouldn't feel you have to see a private dentist because there are no NHS appointments available, even if it's suggested as an alternative.
Friends and family are a good source of recommendations, or check out patient recommendations for dentist practices on the NHS Choices website.
Contact your local NHS England Area Team (or the equivalents in other UK countries) if you can't find an NHS dentist taking on new patients. You can find the details of your NHS England Area Team details on the NHS Choices website (nhs.uk).
Tell the dentist in advance if you’re an anxious patient or have any other needs they should accommodate.
Before you book, double-check whether you’re booking NHS or privately so you don't find any nasty surprises in your bill.
Be clear about NHS pricing before you see the dentist – our undercover investigation in February 2015 found that a third of dentists weren’t clear about private and NHS dental charges.
Check how much the appointment will cost and what it will and won’t include (for example, x-rays will be included in the cost of an NHS new-patient consultation, but may not be in a private appointment).
Prices should be displayed clearly in the surgery, so ask if you don’t see them.
Which? research carried out in early 2015 revealed that a third (31%) of NHS dentists who say they’re accepting new patients on NHS Choices are actually not.
In March 2015, we called 500 dental practices advertising on the government’s official NHS Choices website as accepting new NHS patients, to see if we could book an appointment.
Problems we uncovered included: