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NHS dental services

Commonly asked questions about NHS dentistry

NHS dentistry can be confusing and it can be difficult to know what treatment is available, the costs and your rights as an NHS patient. 

If you're unhappy with the NHS dental care you've received or you're not sure if what your dentist offered you is correct, speak or write to your dental practice first. Alternatively, contact NHS England, which commissions dental services in your area. For more information, read the NHS complaints procedure.

You can also contact the General Dental Council (GDC) for advice. The GDC exists to protect all dental patients, both private and NHS. If you're concerned that the treatment you've received is below standard, you can also report a dental professional online on the GDC website.

Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about NHS dental services.

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Can a dentist decide what treatment to do privately or on the NHS?

No. You can have all treatment on the NHS that your dentist feels is clinically necessary to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy. If your dentist says you need a particular type of treatment, you should not be asked to pay for it privately. The exception is cosmetic treatment, such as teeth whitening, which is not covered by the NHS.

If you're ever offered any private treatment as part of your NHS treatment plan, your dentist should always tell you that it's optional. Separate details of private treatment and charges – usually on the same form as your NHS treatment plan – should always be given in writing before you commit to it. If it is not, query this immediately with the dentist or seek advice from the commissioning board, NHS England

Is private treatment better than NHS treatment?

Any treatment provided on the NHS has to be of the same high quality as treatment provided privately. Dentists are not allowed to refuse any treatment available on the NHS but then offer the same treatment privately. For example, a dentist cannot refuse to do a root canal treatment on the NHS but then offer it to you privately.

After discussing your treatment needs and all the options available to you with your dentist, you may choose to have some general dental treatment provided privately in addition to NHS treatment. This may be carried out at the same time as your NHS course of treatment. The dentist should discuss the options with you so that you can make an informed choice.

Your dentist should explain any risks as well as the costs of all treatment, and should also give you advice on how to keep your teeth, gums and mouth healthy.

Do I have to pay extra if I have been referred to another dentist?

If you're referred to another dentist as part of an existing course of treatment, you should only pay one charge. However, if your dentist refers you to another dentist, this is usually regarded as a separate course of treatment and you can expect to pay a second charge. The amount you need to pay will depend on the treatment involved once the second dentist has assessed you and decided what treatment you need. 

Can I get a second opinion, and do I have to pay again?

If you're unhappy about agreeing to your treatment plan or signing it, you have the right to say no to all or any of the recommended treatments. You also have the right to get a second opinion from another dentist. However, you'll still have to pay the first dentist you saw a Band 1 (£18.50) fee for your consultation, in addition to the cost of the second consultation and any subsequent treatment.

Will I pay again if I need more treatment after completing one course of treatment?

You do not have to pay again if:

  • You need more treatment within the same or a lower charge band (such as another filling) within two months of completing a course of treatment. As long as you discussed the problem with the dentist during that time, they will try to fit you in as soon as possible. However, if they have to offer you a later appointment, you should not be charged again.
  • You need repair work or a replacement of certain types of restoration within a year of the original work being done. You should return to the same dental provider.

If your dentist has given you different information, you can raise your concerns with NHS England, which commissions dental services.

You can also contact the General Dental Council (GDC) for advice. The GDC exists to protect all dental patients, both private and NHS. If you're concerned that the treatment you've received is below standard, you can also report a dental professional online using the GDC website.

If I miss an appointment but have already paid for the treatment, do I have to pay again?

While a dental surgery can’t charge you for not turning up, NHS England, the commissioning board, has the right to ask you to find another surgery if you continually miss appointments, usually after three "no shows" in a row. More importantly, by not turning up, you will stop someone who really needs a dentist from being seen. This is why it is important to give as much notice as possible when cancelling an appointment.

Do I have to register before making an appointment?

No. There is no need to register with an NHS dentist. Simply find a surgery that's convenient for you, whether it's near your home or work, and phone them to see if any appointments are available. To find a dentist, you can search for a dentist near you or call NHS 111.

Do I need a check-up every six months?

No. It used to be recommended that people see their dentist for a check-up every six months, but the national guidelines changed in 2004. Adults are recommended to have a check-up at least once every two years, and children at least once a year. However, your dentist will recommend how often you should see them, based on your current dental health. See the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website for more information about when your next dental check-up should be (PDF, 29Kb).

When do I pay for my NHS treatment?

Different dental practices have different requirements. Some may ask for the whole payment for your treatment up front, while others will ask you to pay after it has all been completed. Check with your practice when you arrive for your initial check-up.

If you're on a low income or benefits, find out about help with dental costs.

Are white fillings available on the NHS?

White fillings are available on the NHS if they're clinically appropriate. However, sometimes sliver-coloured (amalgam) fillings may be a more durable option. For more advice, contact NHS England, which commissions dental services in you area.

Are veneers available on the NHS?

Not usually as they're considered a cosmetic treatment. However, if your dentist thinks the procedure is clinically necessary, it can be available on the NHS.

I had treatment abroad. Will the NHS cover aftercare or treatment if things go wrong?

If you have cosmetic dental treatment abroad and have problems after you return or need general aftercare, it's up to your dentist whether you can have treatment or aftercare on the NHS. If it's not possible, your only option is to seek private treatment, which could be very expensive.

If you have emergency dental treatment overseas, make a dental appointment when you return to ensure the problem has been fully treated, and you weren't given just a temporary solution to stop the pain.

Find out more about treatment abroad, including: 


The 18 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

LittleTyke said on 20 November 2014

I'm due to have a wisdom tooth (lower) pulled in mid-December 2014. As it is really close to Christmas and I'm going away, can I ask the NHS dentist to use dissolvable stitches so that I don't have to come back to have stitches removed? In a previous extraction he used non-dissolving sitches. Is it a dentist's personal choice which type he uses, or is one type better than the other for certain oral procedures?

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LE Model said on 19 October 2014

Repeated Visits to an NHS Dentist to refit a badly fitting crown which would not stay in situ .... final visit I was told the bad news that it couldn't be refitted as the root was cracked and that I had an infection in the root

Treatment offered:

Dentist: I will pack it so that no particles of food lodge in it which he proceeded to do

Patient (me): "what about the infection surely that needs treating "

Dentist: "The Infection will go when the root is taken out "

So here I am with a gumboil type infection that keeps bursting and filling up again

This is obviously being swallowed by myself at times

My NHS dentist who created this problem in the first place has retired so I am not registered with an NHS Dentist so have to travel to a Private Dentist at great cost

This is pretty difficult after all I did pay the full cost for the crown ( nigh on £300 ) when fitted ..this is the 3rd crown from the same dentist which has left my mouth with gaps all three were problematic ...a private crown done in 1971 lasted until 1997 so why shouldn't these NHS crowns be of the same duration?

I may have to have implants now as I can not tolerate a denture. This was why I took the dentists advice at the time and had crowns fitted ... I should not now be in this position ...

I feel ill now and feel that I am being poisoned by this infection and was not offered an appointment or antibiotics. This is surely malpractice and in my opinion should be followed up via legal advice.

I certainly can't afford the Implant procedure being a senior citizen. It will actually put me in considerable debt, but for my own sanity & comfort I feel its the only way to proceed otherwise my social life is going to remain non existent.

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User895113 said on 11 August 2014

I went to see my NHS dentist a month ago with tooth pain. It's turned out two of my upper teeth have been damaged. I agreed with him a treatment plan of root canal and crowns fitted on both teeth at the cost of £219.00. I was referred to a NHS specialist to start the root canal process as it was under sedation. The specialist removed the infected roots cleaned out the teeth and put in temp fillings. I were referred back to my original dentist to finish the rest of the treatment. I had that appointment today and was told on arrival my original dentist had left the practise and I would need to see the new dentist. He told me he could finish one tooth but not the other one as that tooth was at a difficult angle. He said I would have to go private in order to have my treatment on the second tooth finished at the quoted cost of £1'400.00! I cannot afford this and would not have started treatment if I known beforehand what the outcome would be. I argued that as a treatment plan had been agreed and paid for, the practise should honour this and complete the treatment on both teeth as agreed. The dentist told me to get a second opinion if I liked and to make another appointment when I had made a decision. He then showed me the door! I'm now left with temp fillings and the risk of further infection if the matter is not resolved.
Going back to the dentists tomorrow to see if I can get the treatment I deserve. Will be making a formal complaint if they still refuse to carry out my treatment. Absolutely disgusted

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manonedge said on 02 August 2014

I have had dentures since I was 10 and I am now 51. I am having a new set made following the advice from my consultant at the Maxillo hospital clinic. I found an NHS dentist, and had to pay for the upper and lower partials, and a tooth taking out, in a few weeks, it came to about £221.
The lower denture sliced into my gum and the dentist was not too happy about me going back for him to file it down so they fit better and reprimanded me on the stairs in full earshot of the whole waiting room ......the upper set didnt fit so I had to wait for it to be redone.......Today it has been 19 weeks since my first visit for all this treatment...... I went in today and it still does not fit yet the dentist said, well wont they do, they are not that bad....I dont know what to suggest......he also said You should be paying full for this, you should not have got it on the NHS....he then went on to say he doesnt think the dental lab will be too happy at the denture being returned a third time, and could I go to the lab I cant, its miles away from where I live..... After 19 weeks I am so fed up, yes even to the back teeth and now the dentist says he wont see me again as he is leaving and has passed me onto a colleague My question... is, will I have to pay for the teeth to be made to fit properly, and can I keep sending them back if they are not suitable. I know how they should and should not fit.....When I bit down the metal brace shot up and when I pressed the brace back into the roof of my mouth the teeth shot downwards. Any advice is welcome. I have not officially complained as the practice still has a tooth to remove and my upper dentures to fit

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ETrundleford said on 20 March 2014

Best practice and NHS dentistry should not be used in the same sentence. The rest of the world moved on, NHS dentistry is an anomaly left over from the era of beige corduroy, strikes at Longbridge and long sideburns. It's rubbish. I've worked in it, it's like trying to micturate into a gale. Funding is below the cost of doing procedures well, to the point where you simply can't afford to do "best practice" or anything anywhere near it.

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Aligees said on 17 February 2014

I have been to my dentist today as I rang and asked how much it would be to replace my bridge as my gums are receding and It needs replacing. I was told by the receptionist it will cost £214. After speaking to the dentist this is wrong he quoted me £1400!!! I was shocked but looking through your website I see you can get your bridge replaced on Band 3 as its restoration! I would like to know why my dentist gave me such a high price? Thank you.

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hobbit_amy said on 21 November 2013

1. people commenting here - there's no point, no one reads them.

2. this page is SO out of date. Phone numbers etc are wrong now, and even the PDF at the top has the charges from over a year ago.

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stetheb said on 28 October 2013

I have paid for dental work and I believe I am entitled to help with cost and have had to pay £218.00 that I don't have as I'm in university and currently don't have a job, how long would it take to hear back about a refund, i have sent all the receipts and stuff to the appropriate people.

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monicaroque said on 29 August 2013

I'm register at Northgate Dentist in Crawley, at the moment 24 weeks pregnant. I went to the desntist a few months ago, she assess my teethes and said I need to have a Hygienist clean my teethes, I ask her if it's through the NHS, she said no, that kind of treatment has to be private, I learn now, that it doesn't have to. Basically when I went out to the reception they just ask me for £20 deposit, and that to pay the rest £29 when I'm coming for the treatment, they didn't even asked if I wanted the treatment, or if I was able to pay for it... they just assumed that I had that kind of money to pay, I felt a bit overtaken, but I paid, and had the treatment in the end, now they want me to come in 3 months time. The treatment was excellent, and I really needed, but I can't really afford this treatments! what should I do?
Did I really needed to pay that much?

Thank you very much


Monica Roque

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nanan said on 28 August 2013

I have had full dentures for over 30 years, I've finally taken the decision that I need to get new ones ,however I'm concerned that this may not be possible after all this time, mine are really worn and need replacing as soon possible, can anyone give any advise,

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AnthonyKilcoyne said on 18 August 2013

I have to raise a concern Publicly that NHS Dentistry in England is NOT N or H or S as the public might reasonably expect from say their Medical GP NHS system.

Dentistry is not Nationally available to all those who need it and if everyone tried to access the limited current System, it would collapse for everyone - it struggles now to deal with half the population the GP system does, for example.

Dentistry is not a Health-based service. For just two examples they are so desperate to make places for new patients, they send millions of existing patients away from dentists for 2 years for check ups, which means they miss out on Oral Cancer checks annually as recommended, thus risking death and disability instead, especially as Oral cancer is on the increase and more people die from Oral cancer than Cervical cancer + Testicular Cancer combined, every year.
Additionally the third most common Medical (yes medical!) reason for any child being in a Hospital bed in England, is Rotten Teeth :(

Dentistry is also not a Service free to all regardless of income, like visiting your NHS GP - how sad that many report they don't have certain treatments because they cost so much - don't blame 'greedy dentists' please, these are NHS imposed charges, some over £200 as a form of 'Tooth-Tax' which like VAT, every dentist has to give over to the Sheriff of Nottingham, oops sorry, I meant HMG Treasury.

NHS Dentistry in England is like the Cinderella of NHS services ,doing it's best in compromised and limited Systems, whilst everyone is sold the spin that it is fully NHS and can meet all clinical needs for everyone to at least the same high standards as private treatments !

This is The Big Lie, as it's known - thankfully the recent Francis Report has now called for a Duty of Candour, which simply means even if Healthcare workers feel bullied into silence ,we should still speak out and warn the Public!

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annabellabeau said on 23 July 2013

I suffer from depression - I am a lone parent - can I get any help with cosmetic dentistry as I feel I will be able to work, socialise, smile etc and feel good about myself - if I can have old chipped veneers changed, teeth whitened and implants put in - I have suffered lots of abcesses - I have part of a drill embedded in my jaw - I have a strange jaw pain sometimes when lying back.
I am seeing my dentist in August.

If young women can have breast implants on nhs and males change to females etc - why can I not have my confidence back with having a smile - and be able to get a job and also socialise - why is dentistry so expensive and sometimes cheaper if one goes abroad in EU?

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roger brian said on 24 May 2013

The last couple of times I visited the dentist on my annual two year visit, I was told nothing was wrong and cost me £17.each time for five minutes consultation. I have just had a telephone call from the dentist saying I am due for my two year visit. I said my teeth are OK. They said if I do not attend, I cannot be there patient anymore. They will cross me me off there list. Is this correct?

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mel_87 said on 09 April 2013

Can I ask.... I have been referred to the hospital for a tooth extraction by my dentist - as this will be done at the hospital probably under sedation will it be free?

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alexbigall1966 said on 02 February 2013

i would just like to say since the government let dentist go private,I had stopped going,which is why I have lost nearly all my teeth,Yes I know the dentist are now taking nhs again,but for me it feels to late,so I've now decided that once all my teeth come out I will feel I no longer want to live,I've never liked dentists,never will,but I feel I would be to ashamed to visit the dentist,knowing I'd get a lecture about the state of my teeth and gums,or I would be laughed at.

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Ladywriterwriter said on 07 July 2012

to add to my other comment, a GA is good for nervous patients, but alas as to my other post, I got sick the day before the op. I rang up day before could hardly even talk, I know they wont put you under GA when you are sick. But I was not only very sick but angry that how could this happen a day before the operation when I have waited so long. Like having a curse put on me.

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Ladywriterwriter said on 07 July 2012

My dentist refer me to hospital to have my wisdom tooth out under GA. I waited quite a while on the hospital list for this, as its impacted under gum. I managed to get a cancellation a few weeks ago and the day before the op I only got sick which a chest infection so it had to be cancelled, and now got to wait again. until end of July

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kcp said on 07 May 2012

unfortunately due to an illness that causes me to vomit i have lost a number of teeth. the last dentist i went to said i would have to have a denture made and could not have bridges or crowns on the nhs. because of my illness i have a low tolerance to forgein items in my mouth so when i tried a denture it just made me want to vomit and remove it a s quickly as possible. the dentist said i had agreed to a denture despite the fact i had told her and demonstrated to her, when she tried to treat me, that i had a low gag and would probably have problems. but she went ahead and had a denture made, i did try to wear the denture but just ended up in the same situtation. so i returned the denture she tried to make me pay for it and i told her i had never agreed to a denture unless it was to try first. so now i have lost a dentist, which i am not too sorry about, only because it is so hard to find a nhs dentist and it felt like having a bad one was better than nothing. i can see me ending up toothless and hiding away from the public. what i thing to look forward to.

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Page last reviewed: 04/08/2014

Next review due: 04/12/2014

This section is undergoing a review. NHS Choices is working together with NHS England and Healthwatch, incorporating patient feedback made to all parties.


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