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What can I expect from my NHS dentist?

All treatment that is, in your dentist’s opinion, clinically necessary to protect and maintain good oral health is available on the NHS.

If you want to have any cosmetic dental treatment, such as tooth whitening, this will be done privately. You should ask your dentist how much this will cost in addition to any charges for NHS treatment.

What your NHS dentist should do

Your NHS dentist should: 

  • carry out a thorough examination of your mouth, teeth and gums
  • explain your treatment options, tell you what treatment you can have under the NHS, and what other work can be done privately if you need any; for more information, see Why has my NHS dentist charged me for private treatment? 
  • make sure you know how much your NHS treatment and any private treatment will cost
  • provide you with a written treatment plan before carrying out any dental treatment, to confirm the details and costs of the NHS treatment and any private work
  • display a poster about NHS charges
  • discuss how often you need to go for a dental check-up; for more information, see How often should I go to the dentist?  
  • provide a leaflet that includes information about the dental practice and its services

What your NHS dentist should not do

Your dentist should not:

  • charge you for missed NHS appointments; however, if you miss any, your dentist can decide not to offer you treatment in the future
  • suggest that NHS treatment is sub-standard
  • make you pay privately for an examination to assess whether you will be accepted for NHS treatment
  • offer NHS treatment to children on the condition that a parent or guardian becomes a private patient

Although some dentists provide NHS treatment for children while also taking on adults as private patients, offering treatment for your children should not be used as a way of persuading you to sign up for private treatment.

What you should do

As a patient, you are advised to:

  • give your dentist as much notice as possible if you have to cancel or change an appointment
  • ask for a written treatment plan for any band of treatment, if you are not given one  
  • ask questions if there is something you don’t understand
  • pay your treatment bills promptly
  • follow your dentist's advice on how to avoid tooth decay and gum disease  

If you have any problems with your dentist or dental treatment and wish to complain, see How do I complain about my dental treatment?

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 02/03/2015

Next review due: 28/02/2018