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NHS dental services

Dental emergency and out-of-hours care

If you think you need urgent treatment, contact your usual dental practice and ask to be seen as an emergency. If you do not have a regular dentist, you can still get urgent care. Contact your NHS England Local Area Team or call NHS 111.

You may need urgent treatment if you have:

  • toothache or swelling that suggests an infection of a tooth or gum
  • severe toothache or facial pain which is not controlled by taking over-the-counter painkillers
  • trauma of the face, mouth or teeth after a recent accident or injury
  • a permanent tooth being knocked out
  • bleeding after tooth extraction that you cannot control
  • serious swelling of the mouth or face which is getting worse

Most urgent treatments can be dealt with in one appointment. However, if more than one visit is required, and you return to the same dentist to complete the urgent course of treatment, you will only need to pay a single Band 1 (£18.50) charge for the whole course.

Once your urgent course of treatment has been completed, you may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment. In this case, you will have to pay a second charge in the relevant treatment band.

What you can do to help yourself until you can see a dentist

In some circumstances, and only under a pharmacist’s supervision, the use of a dental repair kit may provide temporary relief. These can be bought over the counter at chemists and pharmacies for around £5.00. They are not intended to be a substitute for professional dental care. If you buy and use one of these kits, you still need to see a dentist as soon as possible so the underlying problem can be properly treated and permanently resolved. 

Find a pharmacist near you.


The 33 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

KirstyK1988 said on 18 April 2014

Ive used the 111 service for an emergency dentist twice in the past 12 months. Both times ive found the service fantastic. My call was answered straight away, the operative was both efficiant and sympathetic and i l received a call back within 10 minutes with an offer of an appointment locally within 24 hours.
If used correctly this is a brilliant service thats taking pressure off a&e and offering patients an option out of hours.

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MartinM said on 05 April 2014

Come on people, so many comments here are negative, how can an A and E that deals with people scrapped up from road traffic accidents stop and help out people with essentially tooth ache!!

Last night I had the mother of all toothaches, no sleep, I felt I was going to die, my mother is a nurse so I knew calling 999 wouldn't help much. In the morning, my dentist did see me for emergency booking( which meant come in early at 9am) and was given antibiotics and over the counter painkillers. I spent another night of agony tonight, but I know this is not a life threat.

There are things you can do to help yourself if you have toothache, there's very strong painkillers out there and gel.

If a child has fallen out of bed and broke a tooth, I would call 999 as it's a head injury, but for most of the comments below, it's just toothache or gum infection.

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wnick88 said on 24 March 2014

Useless. Utterly, utterly useless.

I have had severe toothache for the past 12 hours, keeping me awake through the night.

At 4am, I called 111 and was essentially told "Oh, you need a dentist, but none are open right now." (really?! because I definitely didn't know that.) Then told to call 2 local practices for help.

1 of the local practices I was told to call is a referral-only clinic. The other is not accepting new clients and does not do emergency appointments for people who are not registered with them. I haven't been able to register anywhere.

So frankly, this system may as well be scrapped for the utterly uselessness it shows. Nothing short of complete incompetence. A third practice has been able to give me a number for an out of hours service, but that does not open for another 3 hours (by which time, we're talking over 15 hours of agony, plus however long it takes to be seen).

Then you wonder why A&E units are over-run? Sort your lives out, NHS!

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jessgarside said on 25 February 2014

Very good experience. Called in agony with toothache, even asked am i through o the right service and they said yes. Would say not to feel worried about calling. Very good experience. Thank goodness for 111.

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thevirginmummy said on 23 February 2014

I have called 111 with medical concerns before and generally been happy with the response but when I got severe toothache on Saturday night I read the reviews here and was discouraged from calling it. Instead I called my usual practice (I guess any local surgery would be worth a try if you're not registered with one). The answer phone message referred me to a ' single point of contact' phone number. Admittedly this isn't 24hrs (7am-9pm) but I phoned first thing in the morning and the woman was very helpful and booked me an appointment at a dental surgery that day. A few hours later I had anti biotics and was feeling a lot happier. I don't know if every area has this type of system but it's worth a try. The only thing was that she said mine was the last appointment available so I don't know what happens when they're all filled. Hope that helps.

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iancwas said on 19 February 2014

My back tooth as been hurting for a while and I was putting it off but today I thought I better sort it out. I don't have a dentist at the moment so I had to call up to find out what to do next.

I called the local area team who then told me to call 111 and they will sort things out for me. So I then called 111 who said he couldn't do anything apart from list dentist practices and I would have to call them up and explain I need a emergency appointment.

So I called my local practice who said I was misinformed and that I needed to call another dental emergency number to get an appointment. So after 4 call I finally got an appointment at my local dentist down the road.

How is this efficient in any way?

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Andrea21 said on 16 February 2014

Am absolutely disgusted by this so called 'service' that is apparently provided. Been suffering with toothache and have visited my own dentist who wasn't certain that the treatment given would cure problems so told me to ring 111 for an appointment if problems persisted. Toothache started again Friday evening. Continued and became almost unbearable by Saturday tea time. Rang 111 and was asked questions by lady on the other end of the phone. After which she told me that I wasn't deemed to be an emergency! So pain filled Sunday followed sleepless night and another pain filled sleepless night before I can try to get an appointment to see my own dentist. This really isn't good enough. Wish could choose to opt out from paying my national insurance contributions and use them to fund private healthcare as the NHS and this service in particular is a waste of time.

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SarahD1986 said on 10 February 2014

absolutely appalling I have never experienced a more pointless service! There is 0 they can do other than take your phone numebr and adress repeatly.

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jennie2556 said on 02 February 2014

Just had to call 111 for emergency dental treatment. What a waste of time that was and the man was rude. My husband saw his own dentist twice this week and had one tooth removed as it was slightly infected and one filled and is still in pain even with paracetamol being taken. We explained he will now be out of the country for a week and needs something done fast but was offered an appointment on Wednesday!!!!! What is the use of that when he will not be here and if he was he could get to see his own dentist on Monday anyway. Emergency NHS Service is a joke and we are all having to pay for this service via tax etc and then again when we see a Dentist - who by the way drives around in a Porche!!

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Very disappointed with urgent dental care said on 31 January 2014

I have just called 111 to access an emergency dental service in Leeds. I can honestly say the man I have just spoken to is the rudest, most unhelpful person I have ever spoken to in my life. I was told of an appointment in 2 days time and I simply asked where I would go - how this would work (i.e. as this wouldn't be my normal dentist). I was so shocked to hear him say 'sorry what don't you understand - we offer you an appointment and you say if you're coming or not' but you should have heard how he said that. I was so shocked I decided to wait 1 more day to see my normal dentist.

That man really shouldn't have his job. So rude, so unnecessary.

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mikeyTcomplains said on 26 January 2014

Dental care via111 in sheffield is a joke...and not a funny one. Rude unhelpful 111 staff. I call at 0900 sunday with chronic toothace that started the day before. Mouth swollen and painkillers not working. Someone will ring back within 12 hours....seriously. 10 hrs laterand no reply. Scrap the NHS and lets all go private and lets just stop paying for the worst health care in Europe. NHS Sheffield and 111 youre a disgrace.

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wot is happening to NHS said on 04 January 2014

What can I say? Absolutely shocking out of hours dental service. My crown fell off my from tooth leaving no tooth at all (it has all broken off). Rang to try to see out of hours dentist only to be told I couldn't because it wasn't an emergency even though website included a tooth being knocked out (not same I know, but similar). They recommended stuff from boots which I tried to explain wouldn't work as there is nothing to stick it onto. Got nowhere staff very patronising. I have used recommended cement. Cap just stuck on but cant go out, cant speak and cant eat properly. From this site it appears that even if you are in pain you cant get an appointment so what does it take? Mine would have literally taken a dentist no time at all to make the cap more stable until I could get to my usual dentist.

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cazjeff said on 03 December 2013

My son fell out of bed on Saturday night whilst asleep, this resulted in him shearing off half his tooth, he was in agony so I called 111 as he has no dentist and I was not sure if he would be seen in casualty , I went though all there questions and she told me to take him up if he could not cope with the pain, by this time the side of his jaw had some slight swelling. he left it until Monday evening as hes not one to go to dentists and doctors unless he has no alternative, when I went to check him in the casualty receptionist said in a very huffy way , we don't do dental work and not do we see anyone with dental problems, so we left. He was still in agony so today I got him in to see an emergency dentist, when ringing I asked what the costs would be and was told due to the ned for treatment resulted from an accident it would be £18. He went to the apt, the dentist only needed to remove the tooth but no hes give him a temp filling, we all know they drop out and he has to go back next Tuesday to have it removed, cost £24 now I have checked the NHS guidelines and they have overcharges him apparently they said the additional £5 was for numbing him up when it is surpassed to be under the one charge., Another example of the rubbish we have to put up with.

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Milky Kent said on 22 November 2013

Unbelievable. NHS 111 totally unhelpful. Got extreme pain in my tooth, and can't sleep or do anything. Been told that they cannot help, tried dentists, and all numbers given to me. Nothing. Also told not to take any more pain relief as i have reached the maximum dose. Been told to let it get worse and then it will be come a 999 problem. Here goes. Can't eat anyway, so just waiting for my body to collapse.

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work in the nhs said on 20 October 2013

Unhappy with lack of access to out of hours dental care when in extreme pain - cannot sleep or eat; empathise fully with similar stories below and comments re listening to prolonged recorded messages. When finally getting through to a person after waiting ages, NHS 111 totally unhelpful. Didn't manage to access a dentist so having to live with pain all weekend until surgery opens and hope an appointment will be available. Where have all the emergency dentists gone? They seem to be a closely guarded secret with huge barriers to accessing them!

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daisydoop said on 13 October 2013

The NHS 111 lady was utterly wonderful! So helpful and very kind/understanding, she found me a number to ring in my local area and all was fine.
Then I rang my local out of hours surgery who told me that I would not be able to get an emergency appointment because in order to qualify for emergency care, get this, you have to have been suffering with the condition and taking pain relief for at least 24 hours!!!! What??? So even though my tooth had cracked in half, left my nerve exposed and was so sharp it was slicing my mouth open with every breath (NHS111 lady said I definitely needed attention straight away!), I couldn't get an appointment because it had only just happened, whereas if it had happened yesterday then yes I would qualify for treatment!!! Biggest load of pants I've ever heard of - ridiculous!!! I now have to wait until Monday evening (I'm not registered locally) for their out of hours "care", and all the while just let my mouth continue to be ripped to pieces and bleed everywhere!
She also told me that if I had rang up when they opened that I would have gotten an appointment but it was my own fault because I rang too late - sorry, next time I'll make sure my tooth cracks in half in the morning shall I???
Furious!! Can you tell!! x

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misslucyhealey said on 30 September 2013

I have just phoned the NHS 111 service after reading about it on this site and have to ask what is even the point? I have been crying in agony all day with my tooth, and all that the lady on the phone did was give me a number to a dentist that is nearly 40 miles away from my home.
I have had this pain for over a week now, and have yet to find a highly-rated dentist local to me (I have just moved home). My first NHS dentist made my front tooth completely weak and when I ate it just snapped off. As a 20 year old female and with major depression, this really has damaged my confidence. They kept giving me useless temporary crowns that came out instantly so I gave up and went elsewhere. My last NHS dentist didn't care about my obvious problem with my front tooth, and instead drilled a load of holes in my teeth just so they could put fillings in them. And this is where my pain is from now, these awful fillings.

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blackburn patient said on 19 September 2013

Once your urgent course of treatment has been completed, you may be advised to make another appointment for a separate course of non-urgent treatment. In this case, you will have to pay a second charge in the relevant treatment band.

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blackburn patient said on 19 September 2013

reply to OAPRage
Most urgent treatments can be dealt with in one appointment. However, if more than one visit is required, and you return to the same dentist to complete the urgent course of treatment, you will only need to pay a single Band 1 (£18.00) charge for the whole course.

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OAPRage said on 31 August 2013

I'm not on any benefit so don't get any help with NHS costs apart from the universal benefit of free prescriptions, so have to pay for dental care. This year I went for my check-up on 11th January and paid 48 pounds. I developed an access, so I returned on the 6th March and paid a further 17.50. On the 17th July, I went for another check-up, having another filling and a tooth extraction, cost 49 pounds. I started to get a lot of sensitivity in the tooth next to the extraction site so rang for an appointment. The only one I was offered was an emergency appointment and you can guess, I was charged another 18 pounds!

Can somebody please tell me if the NHS promise of 2 months cover, on completion of a course of treatment, ever applies? I am an OAP on a limited income just above the bread line and far worse off than my elderly mum who's on benefits!

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Ashwills1 said on 24 August 2013

111 is the biggest waste of time in the world. How long does someone who's ringing for urgent help because of painful teeth have to listen to the recorded message and songs for. I dont want to hear that i want to be helped which gather by the 5x 15minute calls ive made isnt going to happen.

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tony695 said on 18 August 2013

I am sitting here my wife in terrible pain crying like a child with toothache, what help did we get from the 111 system nothing just a rude dental nurse refusing any help. Her answer is we have no places left is this not the idea of an emergency system to help people in a situation where they are desperate and in need of help. The 111 system is just another way of pushing you aside to save money.

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susan.baker said on 01 August 2013

I wouldn't bother ringing NHS 111. I'm not signed up to a dentist as I have just moved house and haven't got around to it. I've had severe toothache for a couple of days now. I rang my local practice who told me to call back at 9pm when their out of hours service kicks in. I rang NHS 111 and spoke to a lady who was rude and dismissive. She was clearly not listening to a word I said and only repeated words from her script. Her only 'help' was to tell me to call a dentist, which I had already done. She didn't seem at all bothered that I was in a lot of pain.
I'm waiting to see what the dentist says when I ring at 9pm.

This is why so many people skip all the nonsense and just go straight to A&E.

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AD_1977 said on 28 July 2013

Had a first rate experience with NHS 111 Suffolk this morning. I am 24 weeks pregnant and was in agony with toothache. I am only allowed to take paracetamol and knew I wouldn't last until tomorrow to see my own dentist, so I called 111 at 8am. I dealt with a very helpful healthcare advisor who said she would pass on all my details to the Urgent Care team. They immediately rang back and made me an appointment for 12:15pm today. I arrived at Ipswich Hospital's Mobile Dental Unit at 12pm as directed to fill out the required paperwork. I was seen on time by a friendly dentist who diagnosed an abscess and prescribed antibiotics. All in all, the process could not have been any smoother. All the staff were very helpful, friendly and efficient and I am very grateful to everyone who dealt with me today. Keep up the good work NHS Suffolk! Today has just proven that when our healthcare system works, it is amazing!

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nujennex said on 20 July 2013

Our of hours urgent care? What a joke! Am in complete agony with a toothache only to be told that after 2pm there is no help - other than a private clinic who want to charge me £200 (and this number was given to me by NHS direct!). It took me 3 separate calls to the 111 number as I kept being put through to call centres around the country only to be told they can't help unless they're from my local call centre. I've basically been told there's nothing that can be done as I've taken pain killers (that are doing nothing!) and I have to suffer until tomorrow when someone might be able to see me or until Monday. Not a very good service sadly.

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Smiley228 said on 06 June 2013

What a quick and efficient service! I rang at 8am, a dental nurse called me back 10 mins later and booked me an appointment for an hours time. Within 2 hours of making the initial phone call I'm at home nursing my tooth extraction. Just wish I'd have rang yesterday so I wouldn't have spent the whole night awake in agony.

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Miss_A said on 31 May 2013

I just had to call as my tooth has crumbled and I am in agony. The guy who answered the phone was really nice, efficient and helpful. The emergency dental guy who rang me back was the same. They gave me the option of waiting to have an appointment near home or travelling further to be seen sooner. They also told me how much it would cost. The upshot is I got excellent service, a 5pm appointment on Sunday and it will only cost me £18.

This is why I love the NHS and the people that work in it. They cannot always get it right, no one or thing is perfect, accept that and appreciate it for what it is.

Also, the quality of the service you receive is reliant on the information you give them.

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sj2501 said on 23 May 2013

My partner has been in excruciating pain for the last 4 days with toothache. We rang the emergency dentist yesterday morning and was told "you can't see an emergency dentist unless you are in chronic pain". He is! Due to the right hand side of his face swelling to double it's size and him crying in pain we went to A&E where we were given amazing treatment. My partner was prescribed Amoxicillin and extra strength co-codamol. The specialist registrar who saw him said we can't treat your abscess but I know you need to see a dentist asap. So again this morning we rang the emergency dentist and was told by the same useless nurse that we wouldn't be seen. The dire excuse this time was "if you have an abscess the local anaesthetic for treatment won't work". So he has been left to suffer. All the advice says see a dentist, kinda difficult when you have a jumped up little jobsworth with no ounce of sympathy on the line. Thanks NHS Sheffield!

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noodles10 said on 24 January 2013

I had been suffering terrible toothache for about a week. I gave my local minor injuries unit a call who gave me the number for local emergency dental treatment. I rang them and they gave me a number of a nearby dentist who had emergency appointments available. I rang made the appointment and had a tooth extracted within a couple of hours.
If I'd known if was going to be so stress free I would have rang last week instead of suffering the pain.
I can't fault the service, Cheshire West certainly seem to have their act together. Thank you.

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thomasjo said on 30 December 2012

After having severe toothache I had to ring nhs direct for an emergency dentist, I was very pleased with the service I received from them. They called back when they said they would and booked me an appointment. Only to be let down by the dental practisioner as I explained to him I was scared and please not to hurt me. His exact words were "let's get 1 thing straight, your in my chair and I will use my tools which will more than likely hurt is that clear?" What a disgrace!!!

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a1l33n said on 29 December 2012

I'm very unimpressed with "emergency" dental access. It would appear to be impossible to actually obtain emergency treatment outside the major cities - and the ones in the major cities are probably very expensive. We've phoned the local emergency line about a broken tooth and have been told that all today's appointments have now been taken (it's now 3pm) - since emergencies happen 24 hours a day, surely appointments need to be available 24 hours a day.
Is A&E the only real option if you need emergency treatment? And will you get emergency dental treatment if you go to A&E?

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chismil82 said on 07 December 2012

Absolutely disgusted by the response I have had this morning. I have an extremely swollen face which is worsening by the minute and I am being refused an emergency appointment with a dentist because I live under a different postcode! I live in Berkshire and work in Surrey, I am in severe agony and as previously stated a continually swelling face and I can not be seen because I am not at home but at work. I think this is a disgrace! What if I lived in Scotland and was in Surrey for business, you expect me to fly back to Scotland to see someone? I have to travel 2 hours to get home then wait to be seen where as I should be seen within the hour at a dentist local to my location at the time, not based on where I currently reside. On a brighter note, although it lead to the emergency booking team telling me to simply 'deal with it', the triage nurses which I spoke to on the phone and the initial help line were absolutely fantastic. Helpful, quick and great advice. Now due to the incompetence of the emergency team I am about to go and waste the valuable time of A&E staff as I am hugely concerned and refuse to wait till I can get home to have this issue dealt with.

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sanvil said on 19 April 2012

My daughter had a tooth removed at an emergency dentist as she was not registered with a dentist. She was in terrible pain and her cheek was very swollen the next day. She phoned them and eventually agreed to see her after refusing initially. Now, 2 days later she is in terrible pain again and they have refused to see her. Her GP has said they must continue with aftercare but what does she do as they are refusing?

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Page last reviewed: 29/02/2012

Next review due: 28/02/2014

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