Dental treatments

This is a guide to the main treatments carried out by dentists. Some are readily available on the NHS, while some may only be available on the NHS in certain circumstances. Some may only be available from a specialist working in a dental hospital.

Always ask your dentist whether the treatment they're recommending is available on the NHS and how much it will cost before you go ahead.


A bridge is a fixed replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. It's made by taking an impression of the surrounding teeth, which will eventually support the bridge. A bridge is usually created from precious metal and porcelain and will be fixed in your mouth (unlike dentures, which can be removed).

Bridges are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost up to £222.50.


A crown is a type of cap that completely covers a real tooth. It's made from either metal, or porcelain and metal, and is fixed in your mouth. Crowns can be fitted where a tooth has broken, decayed or been damaged, or just to make a tooth look better.

To fit a crown, the old tooth will need to be drilled down so it's like a small peg onto which the crown will be fixed. It can take some time for the lab to prepare a new crown, so you probably won’t have the crown fitted on the same day.

Crowns are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost up to £222.50.


Fillings are used to repair a hole in a tooth caused by decay. The most common type of filling is an amalgam, made from a mixture of metals including mercury, silver, tin, copper and zinc. Your dentist will offer the most appropriate type of filling according to your clinical needs. This includes white fillings, if appropriate. 

Amalgam fillings and some white fillings are available on the NHS (band 2) and cost £51.30 per course of treatment.

Root canal treatment

Root canal treatment (also called endodontics) tackles infection at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system).

When the blood or nerve supply of the tooth has become infected, if root canal treatment is not carried out, the infection will spread and the tooth may need to be taken out.

During treatment, all the infection is removed from inside the root canal system. The root canal is filled and the tooth is sealed with a filling or crown to stop it from becoming infected again. Root canal treatment usually requires two or three visits to your dentist.

Root canal treatment is available on the NHS (band 2) and costs £51.30.

Read more about root canal treatment.

Scale and polish

This is when your teeth are professionally cleaned by the hygienist. It involves carefully removing the deposits that build up on the teeth (tartar).

Scale and polish is available on the NHS depending on your clinical need, and costs (band 1) £18.80.


Braces (orthodontic treatment) straighten or move teeth to improve the appearance of the teeth and how they work.

Braces can be removable, so you can take them out and clean them, or fixed, so that they're stuck to your teeth and you can't take them out.

They can be made of metal, plastic or ceramic. Invisible braces are made of a clear plastic.

Braces are available on the NHS for children and, occasionally, for adults, depending on the clinical need, and cost (band 3) up to £222.50

Read more about braces (orthodontics).

Wisdom tooth removal

The wisdom teeth grow at the back of your gums and are the last teeth to come through, usually in your late teens or early twenties. Most people have four wisdom teeth, one in each corner.

Wisdom teeth can sometimes emerge at an angle or get stuck and only emerge partially. Wisdom teeth that grow through in this way are known as impacted.

Impacted wisdom teeth can be removed on the NHS. Your dentist may perform the procedure or may refer you to a dentist with a special interest (DwSI) or to a hospital's oral and maxillofacial unit.

You will usually have to pay a (band 2) charge of £51.30 for wisdom tooth removal. If you are referred to a hospital for NHS treatment, you will not have to pay a charge.

Your dentist can also refer you for private wisdom teeth treatment if you wish.

Find out more about wisdom tooth removal.

Dental implants

Implants are a fixed alternative to removable dentures. They may be the only option if the loss of teeth has caused the mouth to shrink so that it can no longer support dentures. You can use implants to replace just a single tooth or several teeth.

To fit an implant, titanium screws are drilled into the jaw bone to support a crown, bridge or denture.

Replacement parts take time to prepare. This is to ensure that they fit your mouth and other teeth properly. Therefore, they may not be available on your first visit to the dentist.

Implants are usually only available privately and are expensive. They're sometimes available on the NHS for patients who can't wear dentures or whose face and teeth have been damaged, such as people who've had mouth cancer or an accident that's knocked a tooth out. 

Dentures or false teeth

More commonly known as false teeth, dentures are fitted in place of natural teeth. A full set is used to replace all your teeth. A part set is used to replace one or more missing teeth. Dentures are custom-made using impressions (mouldings) from your gums. They're usually made from metal or plastic.

They're removable so you can clean them, although part dentures can be brushed at the same time as your other teeth. A full set needs to be removed and soaked in a cleaning solution.

Dentures are important if you lose your natural teeth as losing your teeth makes it difficult to chew your food, which will adversely affect your diet and may cause your facial muscles to sag.

Dentures are available on the NHS (band 3) and cost up to £222.50

Read more about dentures and false teeth.

Broken or knocked out tooth

It's common to break, chip or knock out a tooth.

If the tooth is just chipped, make a non-emergency dental appointment to have it smoothed down and filled, or to have a crown.

If the tooth has been knocked out or is badly broken, see a dentist immediately. Your dentist may fit a denture or bridge. If you need an implant, you'll be referred to a dental hospital.

Treatment of whatever type can be provided by an NHS dentist and the cost covered on the NHS.

Read more about broken or knocked out teeth.

Teeth whitening

Teeth whitening involves bleaching your teeth to make them a lighter colour. Teeth whitening can’t make your teeth brilliant white, but it can lighten the existing colour by several shades.

Standard teeth whitening involves several visits to the dentist plus sessions at home wearing a mouthguard containing bleaching gel. The whole process takes a couple of months.

A newer procedure called laser whitening or power whitening is done at the dentist's surgery and takes about an hour. 

Teeth whitening is cosmetic and therefore generally only available privately.

It is occasionally available on the NHS if you have a clinical need, for example to whiten a tooth that's gone black because the nerve has died.

Read more about teeth whitening.

Dental veneers

Veneers are new facings for teeth which disguise a discoloured (rather than a damaged) tooth. To fit a veneer, the front of the tooth is drilled away a little. An impression is taken, and a thin layer of porcelain is fitted over the front of the tooth (similar to how a false fingernail is applied).

Veneers are generally only available privately unless you can show a clinical need for them.

Treatment costs

Read in detail about the cost of NHS dental treatments.

Rate your dentist

Did you know you can now rate or post a comment about your dentist and read other people's comments?

Common dental Q&As

Read answers to the most common questions about dentists and dental charges.

Page last reviewed: 02/12/2013

Next review due: 02/12/2015


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The 38 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

freddiefan said on 23 May 2015

Dental treatment on the NHS should be free for everyone.

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daftoldbat said on 08 March 2015

NHS dental contract is offensive. Virtually no treatment other than a cursory check up is available - assuming you can even find a practice that accepts NHS patients. Like others have said, I've been quoted £1000 for an implant to 'save' a tooth that is loose due to no scale and polish since the fixed price contract came in. My new dentist charges £60 for a scale and polish (even though this is part of the fixed price treatment) but at least they do it.
Surely the scale and polish and fluoride paste treatments are cost effective preventative treatments that should be done as standard not luxury 'extras'.

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KP187 said on 18 February 2015

I have had my bridge on my teeth now for 15 years and over time my gum has receded and the top of my tooth / metal is showing through. What is typical lifespan of bridge and how much will it cost to replace it? Can it be done on nhs?

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alan elliott said on 27 January 2015

I wanted to know details to help me choose what type of filling to have done.

Unlike a visit to the doctors, at the dentist we have no visual picture of our teeth, often feel no symptoms, may not remember which treatments we have had on which teeth and we generally do not properly understand what is happening to our teeth and what the options are...I'd like to be given information to take show me the condition of my teeth and the history of my treatment and so be able to understand and decide my treatments with confidence

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Sheepytooth said on 24 September 2014

Just been to my dentist to have crown re cemented and told May need , first a bridge which, she says, cannot be on NHS ( why) then went on to say bridge may not be possible and would need implants at the cost of £1000+ per tooth and should think about this sooner rather than later! ( not at all as I can't afford it! ) but gave no reason why I can't have bridge on nhs but pushed more for implant option so not happy as seems more interested in making money than cheaper options. Not good as I will be left with loss of an important molar or 2 as private treatment out of my reach!

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Aunty Tia said on 05 August 2014

I've recently had a crown and of course I wanted a white one as it could been seen. I had to pay £350 for this but when I had one on the next tooth a few years it ago it was white and I only paid approx £200 as it was on the NHS. Have they changed their policy?

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Socialfellow said on 20 July 2014

Following the thread on cost of treatment, I want to scream! The Health Service should go back to the days of covering the basic necessities: Eyes, Teeth and recovery from ill health. But the Bureaucracy NHS has grown like topsy away from the ordinary person's core needs. GPs are in fact self employed private contractors, dentists are much the same but arguably better paid, opticians are private practices. So where is the NHS mantra of Free at the Point of Use? Only free to those on benefits? The creation of the Health Service generally was in no small part the result of seeing the state of the men who enlisted during the first world war: mouths full of rotten teeth etc. We are heading back this way, judging by the lower-paid and retired people I meet.

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Adam Norton said on 12 June 2014

hi i need some help please im on the NHS and have really bad broken down and missing teeth which i need out under GA in hospital as i have a really bad fear of the dentists please can you help so i can get a referal ?

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Gagrielle12345 said on 18 December 2013

Unfortunately for of us, Dentistry is a Business for a Dentist and effectively it is all about the money they can earn and claim back via the NHS therefore, our best interests and the correct procedures are not always part of a Dentists Agenda. (In my opinion)
I have had a succession of incredibly poor dentists (NHS) throughout my life, not recognising good from bad purely because I have never had a good dentist. I have also had the unnecessary fillings as a youngster purely because the particular dentist at that time got paid per filling. Now at a ripe old age I have discovered a real 'Dentist' via recommendations across a Social Media local website. A little late for me but not too late to refer my children. Amazingly though she has lots of individuals my age who also were unaware of how to floss properly. She is a little more expensive but worth it. As a patient my confidence is in her. Dentists should be monitored and poor or bad practice flagged and recognised more often, by the Governing body who oversee Dentists. Unfortunately there are far too many Tooth Fairies around vs Real Dentists. It should be time to reassess this practice. This is an expensive problem.....

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cdeaston said on 15 December 2013

My wife has been suffering all weekend with an abscess on her tooth and it got to the point this evening where she felt she needed to see a dentist immediately. I called this number and made an appointment to travel from Dartford to Rochester. I cannot praise this service highly enough. She was seen exactly on time and within an hour, we were back home with the necessary medication and advice. Thank you to the NHS for this wonderful, 1st class service. Yes I know we pay for it etc, but when something just works, we should stand up and say so, and say thank you. I'm not normally moved to comment in this manner, but this really is an excellent service - thank you.

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GARRYH said on 24 September 2013

I have been given an estimate from my dentist for a denture to replace four teeth, including the denture itself, steel wire clasps, a special consultation and four extractions at a total cost of £753 under a Private treatment plan. I had previously asked the dentist whether this treatment was available on the NHS and he said it wasn't.

Is he correct?

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teresam19 said on 17 August 2013

Times like these I wished I lived in America - made sure everyone had proper treatment at an early age (I had big gaps back in the 60s - little girl from The Fockers 2 film - that was me). Eventually got them fixed at the cost of my front teeth, but was happy that I had a nice smile. My partial upper denture needs replacing, my lower front implant has fallen out and have yet another gap, it's never-ending. The private dentists I went to must have thought "here's a mouth that's worth a lot of money". The more they drilled, filled and taken out, the more I distrusted them, so never went again until my lower implant fell out.
My husband has a good job, so cannot claim benefits of any kind and my confidence has gone so much that I don't want to go out.
Amazing what a good set of teeth can do for a person's self-confidence. I have to wait for 4-6 weeks before I can get my new teeth, top and bottom set. How come a programme like 10 Years Younger can do it in less time and the NHS can't.
Oh to win the lottery, like that's going to happen?!!

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disillusion said on 05 June 2013

Despite NHS prices for various treatments it is difficult to get any NHS dentist to carry out the work. All they want to do is an inspection and pull out the tooth. Friends have said the same.

I needed a part denture, visited 2 NHS dentists and both said a metal plated denture was not possible, only plastic despite these being listed on here as an NHS treatment!

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AH842 said on 18 February 2013

I can't afford private dental treatment and I can't afford the NHS treatment my dentist has recommended I need at the moment. What good is a national health service if not everyone can afford the dental treatment offered? It's no wonder many people never visit a dentist and no surprise we Brits have a reputation for having bad teeth.

(I hate my teeth. I still have all my amalgam fillings from the 70s, when you were given them whether you needed them or not. )

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ScottishConnor said on 21 March 2012

I'm just out of hospital. After my surgery the nurse informed me that a tooth was cracked during the placement of the anesthetic tube.

Now that I'm relatively fit, I went to my dentist for crowning. Not only was this a silver crown but it was nice and noticeable(!) I live in Scotland and I'm a teenager.

Despite the NHS causing the damage themselves, I wasn't offered a white crown, so now I have to pay £400+ myself for a white crown.

The NHS dental costs are appalling and unjustifiable. Was a white crown as a token of apology too much to ask? I would of preferred that instead of a hole in my wallet!

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katm78 said on 04 January 2012

My husband and I are registered with an NHS dentist and we were both quoted £250 each for a filling (as we both needed 1 filling) and my husband got quoted £3000 for a new bridge.

We've been quoted half the price for a highly recommended dentist abroad - how does that make sense?

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nikin said on 06 November 2011

All very well, I have been trying to find a NHS dentist in or near Plymouth Devon for some years now. I am a poor pensioner & cant afford all the fancy prices the private sector want.
No dentist available, or only children.
Nearly all my teeth are either loose or unusable.
What do I do ?

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notrust said on 12 September 2011

I would prefer to have a bridge fitted from my former dentist in a different EU country. I have, luckily not personally, experienced too many horrific stories about dentists here in the UK that I'd rather not risk having one myself!

Can I apply for a refund (minus the usual NHS band 3 contribution of course) handing in proof of the work (invoice) or am I bound to a NHS dentist?
What would I need to do to secure the refund prior to having treatment?


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colwoods said on 13 February 2011

I have been with the same dentist 12yrs and because I wouldnt agree that he took my bottom teeth out instead of an alternative to dentures he wouldnt see me again. My next dentist wouldnt agree to starting my previous dentists left overs and wanted to fit a denture. I required a bridge doing because I am nt brill with plates and dentures. Nobody on nhs will do it for me so I have had to go private and the cost is £3,000 I am on income support and will have to take out a dental plan over 3yrs. Could nhs give me some help towards this as I dont want dentures but nhs only offer me this and I thought dentists helped you save your teeth not pull them out but nhs just want to pull them all out please give me info.

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User525666 said on 04 February 2011

I would be grateful if somebody employed within the NHS could provide me with a copy of the 'strict' criteria for Crowns. Despite repeated requests to my local PCT this has not been forthcoming and does not seem to be available online.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 20 January 2011

Hi Sean Morris,

Dentures are in band 3 so cost up to £198 on the NHS per course of treatment. Read more about NHS dental charges at

Hope that helps,

Kathryn Bingham, Live Well Editor

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seanmorris2 said on 11 January 2011

I have had to have all my teeth out at the hospital as i was refered there by my nhs Dentist and i now need dentures but cant find anywhere that tells you what the cost of dentures is on the NHS does anyone know how much i can expect to pay as i am on benefits but on the wrong benefit to get any help towards paying for my treatment so if anyone does know the cost can you please let me know now so i can die of shock now and not when i get the bill

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Maztec said on 10 July 2010

I went to a dentist in London with a tooth ache and expected to need a filling. I was told I would need a route canal and that it would be done over 2 sessions and would cost £950. Now as a busy man 2 days is crazy and the price is ridiculous. I wanted to build a relationship with my local dentist but find this impossible these days when they try to rip you off. I checked with a website who arrange for dental abroad and their dentists have been visited and audited in person taking away some of the worries I thought about going to an unknown dentist. The cost for the same treatment in the worlds so called capital of dentistry Budapest was just £400 including flights and hotel with 2 nights. I think the more UK dentists increase their prices the more people will choose to go abroad.

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morelindo said on 24 March 2010

I went to the dentist recently - first NHS dentist I've seen in this country.
He did a checkup and told me I needed fillings, and that white ones would have to bee done privately, costing £130 for two.
He did not perform a scale and polish, which as I later found out he should have done as that is covered under the checkup fee and I haven't had one in about a year so I'm defo in need of one.

I also talked to two friends afterwards and they both said their dentists did white fillings on the NHS.
I cannot believe that I have been ripped off so badly. I'm seriously not impressed.

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donna22785 said on 10 February 2010

iv got really bad gaps in my top front four teeth, and its rally getting me down as my teeth are starting to look goofy. i cant afford to get them done private, does anyone know a solution?
it would be much appreciated x

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Anon 1200 said on 15 January 2010

NHS Dentists are only allowed to charge set fees (which should be displayed in the waiting room) for certain types of treatment. If you are registered as an NHS patient with your dentist and they tell you they cannot do root canal work or other basic treatment such as oral hygiene, you should report this to your local Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS) whose number is available via the link on this website and this will be treated as a serious issue.

Pregant women can get all of their examinations and treatment free so make the most of it while you are expecting!

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CC123 said on 04 January 2010

This page has some useful advice for anyone thinking of going abroad for dental treatment.

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Yanny21 said on 12 April 2009

i would agree that going abroad for dental treatment could be appropriate solution.
I live in Moscow and the cost for 1 small filling (modern type) makes 30 pounds, big filling (a. 1/2 of a visible part of a tooth or even more) will be 50-60 pounds. And this is in a decent clinics (belonging to a Presidential service). One titanium implant makes 600 pounds, plus the ceramic crown a. 400. Do not mind the additional costs such as x-ray, etc. they are insignificant. Sure there are bigger prices at some places (which do not mean better service ;)), and lower prices as well.

Basing on my knowledge, i would imagine that dentists in Poland and especially Germany could be very experienced as well (coz western europeans traditionally have rather poor teeth, therefore the doctors are used to work with severe cases..)
I have seen the work of german dentists and it's impressing. The prices are not high (in private german clinics) but the materials used and technics are excellent.

>>What i would do if i need to find the clinics in western europe is: determine what kind of job i'd like to do (in details), compare the prices online (mind, you always can negotiate up to 30% of the price with any doctor :)), choose some 2-3 clinics with the "name" (such as our moscow President service f.e.)) basically from those which have connection to the governmental structures what always means additional control from the government, take cheap tourist trip (if you need visa and hotel)and make a try!!

god bless all of you,
with me best wishes from russia!!
/sorry for bad English/

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kikilici said on 27 February 2009

Are the dental check-ups or dental treatments free for pregnants women?

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User76154 said on 21 December 2008

My 'NHS' dentist has just told me that due to receding gums my 4 front crowns need to be replaced with implants a cost of £8k !! She said it without batting an eye! But first I have to see an oral surgeon at a cost of £100+ for the assessment . I'm also being charged separately to see the dental hygienist to do the scale and polish that has always previously been included in the initial visit with the dentist. I can't believe all NHS dentists are such scamming rats !!

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ann said on 27 August 2008


I desperately need dental treatment, but cant afford it, if i was on benefits I would get free treatment,, but if you work for a low wage then forget it, the dental system seems to be going back in time with only the best treatment for those that are insured or lucky enough to be rich. Rip off Britain definately

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Alan, Cheltenham said on 27 June 2008

I have noted the comments of others, and basically am in the same boat, but readers should realise the costs are comprehensve to cover the practice's overheads and disbursements.
Currently I am opting for an implant for a receding gum,this is out of my price range as a private patient,it would buy me a 5year old car!

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Anonymous said on 18 June 2008

I need a root canal treatment which my NHS dentist is not confident to do. The private dental clinic I have been referred to charges around £700 for this!

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anon said on 12 June 2008

i went to the dentist today and they've said i need a crown but they dont do the white ones on the nhs anymore, is this true? if so ive got a £400 bill to look forward to, for one tooth!!!

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Anon said on 11 June 2008

I want 2 front teeth refilled with white rather than the amalgam that is in them now as it makes them look like bad teeth, I was horrified when the dentist told me it will cost £200 I only want 2 front teeth doing, not my whole mouth!!!! How can they charge this amount? I dont blame people going abroad for dental work, thinking about it myself. It is rip off britain.

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Kimi said on 28 May 2008

Would you really want it doing for £500 in Poland? You do get what you pay for, look at other horror stories of people having work done abroad, not just dental!
Let me know how that one works out for you!

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j said on 24 March 2008

It would be realy good if we could get a dentist in the first place!

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anon said on 23 March 2008

tracy murphy !!!!!!!!!!!
Look at going to eastern europe for the work.
my father needs £4000 worth of work on his teath.
It will cost him £500 in poland.

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Services near you

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Finding an NHS dentist

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What's available on the NHS

Find out what dental services are available under the NHS, including how to complain if you are not happy with the service provided

NHS dental charges

This section explains the current NHS dental charges including, how to claim refunds

Help with dental costs

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Dental health

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