28th July 2021
NHS dental charges rose by 5% on December 14 2020. Prices for NHS dental treatment in England are now as follows:
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the price rises are part of an effort to find a balance between NHS treatments that are paid for by patients, and those funded by NHS taxpayer contributions.
Those who qualify for free dental care are unaffected, and the DHSC says there is help available for those on low incomes through the NHS Low Income Scheme.
Three quarters of UK dentists operate mixed practices that offer both NHS and private dental work, according to the British Dental Survey 2017. This means that, to some extent, you can pick and choose the treatment you have done under NHS charges, and what you decide to pay for fully.
Read our dental treatment round-up below to decide whether you're getting a decent deal on dental care, or paying over the odds. We've listed the NHS payment band for common procedures, and compared with their equivalent private dental prices.
We've also included advice on the difference between NHS and private treatment for each procedure, and whether it's worth considering paying for private treatment.
Some practices are asking patients to pay a surcharge to cover increased costs of PPE. These charges only apply to private appointments and are intended to be temporary measures.
More is being charged for aerosol generating procedures (AGPs). This is where machinery is used which produces aerosol sprays from your mouth which could contain the virus. AGPs include fillings, crowns, bridges and some hygiene treatments), and requires a higher level of PPE.
MyDentist, which operates 650 UK practices, is charging an extra £35 for AGPs and £7 for non-aerosol treatments.
Bupa is charging an extra £40 for AGPs and £7 for non-aerosol treatments.
New patient consultation or check-up
Band 1 - £23.80
Band 1 - £23.80
Hygiene clean/scale and polish
Band 1 - £23.80 / Band 2 - £65.20 for deep scaling
Amalgam filling/metal filling
Band 2 - £65.20
Composite filling/white filling
Band 2 - £65.20
Root canal treatment
Band 2 - £65.20
Band 2 - £65.20
Band 3 - £282.80
Band 3 - £282.80
Ask how long your private consultation will last, and whether any X-rays are included with it (including the type of X-ray) as it varies between practices. Subsequent routine appointments are usually cheaper, but do ask for ongoing prices so you know what you're paying in the long term.
In emergency situations you should be seen quickly, whether under the NHS or privately. But for more routine appointments, you could have to wait a while. If using the NHS it’s a good idea to book your next check-up appointment on the way out from your last, or at least some weeks ahead of when it’s due, to ensure you get a slot when you need it.
Routine private appointments will generally be allocated more time than those on the NHS, and appointments may be offered out of hours (evenings and weekends).
If you don’t want to take time off work and want to ensure you can be seen quickly, a private appointment could be worth the extra.
As a new patient, you will usually have simple X-rays of the back teeth (called bite-wings). This will be included in the price of a new patient consultation, and usually any X-rays required as part of a check-up are also included. But you may need more complex specialist X-rays to get a view of the whole mouth from ear to ear – this may well be more expensive if done privately.
Band 1 covers a range of basic treatments, including a scale and polish, if dentally necessary. But 'necessary' is the key word here. If your dentist recommends a clean for more cosmetic maintenance, you are likely to be asked to make an appointment with a private hygienist.
Privately, you’ll definitely get a longer appointment and usually a more intensive clean.
If you like having a regular clean from the hygienist, there’s no evidence to suggest you shouldn’t keep doing it. But, equally, the evidence isn’t there to say routine scale and polishes make your mouth healthier.
Next time your dentist suggests a hygienist visit, ask if it is clinically necessary, as you might be entitled to cleaning under the NHS.
The cavity in your tooth is drilled so it can be filled with a mixture of metals. Private prices for all types of filling depend on the size and complexity of the treatment you need – for example, how many tooth surfaces it covers.
Amalgam is hard-wearing and good for the back chewing teeth. This is the more common type of filling you'll be offered on the NHS; if you're going private it may be worth upgrading to a white filling.
Composite fillings are trickier to do (the tooth surface must be dry when the resin gel is bonded on) and can be less hard-wearing for back teeth that chew and grind. More expensive private ones are lab-made for you.
On the NHS, you’re more likely to get them on front teeth, but your dentist decides what you need.
If decay gets deep into your tooth and affects the root, a root filling (known as root-canal work) can save the tooth.
Private prices range hugely, as root canal can be a technically demanding treatment and you may be referred to a specialist endodontist. How much you pay depends on the tooth size and position (back teeth tend to be more expensive) and complexity.
Some teeth will be routinely extracted in the dentist’s surgery – known as a simple extraction. Others will need referral to a dentist with advanced skills in surgical treatments because they’re awkwardly shaped or placed, and surrounding bone may need to be removed to free them.
Crowns are shaped like natural teeth and fit like a cap over your own teeth. Private prices depend on materials used and time taken.
Any lab that makes crowns for the NHS is governed by strict regulations about the materials used, and many will be producing both private and NHS work. But dentists can use different suppliers or technicians for NHS and private patients.
The difference in end results is likely to lie largely in cosmetic aspects, such as the colour matching and finish.
Crowns may be made of materials including porcelain (most expensive for a very natural tooth look), porcelain bonded onto precious metal, or all-metal (generally less expensive and used on back teeth).
NHS crowns are usually made of a metal core surrounded by a porcelain wrapping, which may not be an entirely realistic ‘tooth’. The dentist can choose from a limited number of colour shades, so the result may not produce an accurate match for your teeth.
A private crown may be made of precious metals (eg gold, platinum or palladium) or a combination of minerals and porcelain, and will give a more natural appearance.
Often, you will be able to choose from a range of labs and technicians, as well as colour-matching to your specific tooth colour. You may even meet the technician at your dental surgery to discuss the work and go through your options.
As with crowns, the labs that make dentures and bridges for the NHS are held to strict regulations about the material they use, and produce work for the private firms as well as the NHS. Again, the difference is mainly in the aesthetics – colour and finish.
NHS dentures are usually made of solid acrylic, which can feel bulky and less comfortable in the mouth than some private options.
Dentures made privately may be made from a more expensive flexible acrylic or chrome, which can feel much more natural.
Bridges tend to look better and feel more comfortable than dentures, plus some people may want a permanent replacement rather than a removable prosthesis.
Bridges are sometimes refused on the NHS, because they can be seen as a cosmetic choice over the more practical and less invasive option of a denture. A bridge can compromise the long-term health of the teeth on either side, so a dentist can argue that it’s not the best option for making you dentally fit.
If your dentist is unwilling to give you a bridge on the NHS, they might still offer it privately, if that is the option you really want.
Each country has its own dental charging system. Wales has a similar banded system to England, and dental charges in Wales also rose in December 2020:
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. So, for example, the NHS charge for an amalgam filling would be from £13.28 to £34.85.
There are currently no plans for price rises in Scotland and Northern Ireland
NHS prices are correct as of June 2020.
Private costs are correct as of February 2020 and are based on prices quoted by leading private dental chains including Bupa, Dentalcare group, MyDentist and Rodericks. We also contacted private dentistry companies Genix Healthcare and Southern Dental, but they declined to provide any pricing information.