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NHS dental services

What's available on the NHS?

You're entitled to have all clinically necessary treatment on the NHS. This means that the NHS will provide any treatment that you need to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy and free of pain. This includes:

  • dentures
  • root canal treatment
  • crowns and bridges
  • any preventive treatment needed, such as a scale and polish, an appointment with the dental hygienist, fluoride varnish or fissure sealants
  • white fillings
  • orthodontics for under-18s

Find out more about common treatments provided under the NHS.

The NHS will not provide treatments such as teeth whitening, which you may want to make your teeth more attractive but which are not clinically necessary.

However, if your dentist says you need a particular type of treatment, you should not be asked to pay for it privately.

Your dentist is not allowed to refuse you any treatment available on the NHS but then offer the same treatment privately. Also, any treatment provided on the NHS has to be of the same high quality as treatments provided privately.

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

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


Taking care of your general health, as well as your teeth, is important for keeping your mouth healthy. Read about lifestyle tips for healthy teeth.


If you are unhappy with the NHS dental care you have received, speak or write to your dental practice or contact NHS England, the commissioning board. NHS England commissions dental services in your area. Find out more about the NHS complaints procedure.

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


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Find out what other people think of local dentists and give your own view. Leave your comments now.


The 15 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

C4RT said on 18 December 2013

Please may I have some advice. I am 5 months pregnant and in receipt of a maternity exemption certificate. Early in my pregnancy I lost half a tooth, the remainder half went approximately two weeks ago. I have just attended my dentist who advised that my only options are a) remove remainder of the tooth root and have a gap, b) have a denture (cost covered by nhs), c) have a 'fixed' bridge at a cost of £700 or d) have an impant costing in excess of £2,000.

I am a little confused and concerned as I cannot find any research that differentiates between a 'fixed' and standard bridge, and a standard fixed bridge, according to the nhs website, should be covered by my exemption certificate and I should therefore not have to pay the £700 fee as advised.

Can you please let me know whether the advice provided to me is correct? I am somewhat upset that my only options covered by the nhs are a gap or a denture.

Many thanks

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precision said on 09 October 2013

Nhs dentistry has become a free marketing plan for dentists. Expect to pay.

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daveros89 said on 12 August 2013

Hi im 24 years old and suffer from epilepsy when I have a seizure my jaw clamps shut causing quite serious damage to my teeth and tongue I have also chipped teeth when falling during a seizure I feel like I need serious dental treatment to repair and replace a few teeth, I am wondering if I have any options available to me on the nhs since I am only 24 I cannot afford private care. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

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vicky l davies said on 24 July 2013

Hi, I'm 23 years of age and have a very crooked tooth at the front of my teeth, my dentist is really nice but he told me he couldn't help me with my problem, I'm no longer working and would need to pay 2500 pound to have a. Race fitted, money I wish I had, I recently went to my doctor about my depression due to my teeth hoping he would be able to refer me to the hospital to have them straightend on the nhs, but he just told me he could only get me help on the emotional side of it. I feel as though I look disgusting, I try not to smile and feel I have very little confidence to go out and it drives my partner crazy, is there anyone or anything that could help me get this sorted out?
I would greatly appreciate some feed back,
Many thanks
Vikcy L Davies.

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ujpest said on 03 July 2013

I am happy with my dentist but not the associated hygienist. I therefore go to another practice for the hygienist service, which is actually provided by a dentist. However, this dentist says that she is required to do a checkup as well, even though she knows I have a dentist and see him regularly.

Is this correct?

She then charges £26 for the hygiene (20 minutes) and another £22 for the checkup. I think she wants rid of me!

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c_jay said on 19 May 2013

User732273: "6. A scale and polish do not necessarily come together. you may have a scale to remove then tart and not a polish as the later would be for staining which is again, cosmetic."

LOL Dentists should stop looking for loopholes in order to rip off people! You are wrong cos according to NHS guidelines: if your dentist recommends S&P no part of that should come under "cosmetic" ( which is code name for "private treatment")

"If your dentist recommends a scale and polish, it should be provided under the NHS (Band 1, £18), whether it is done by a dentist or a hygienist. If your dentist says a scale and polish is not clinically necessary but you want one anyway, you will have to pay to have it privately.

<b>An NHS scale and polish should be carried out as thoroughly as a private one.</b>"

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User732273 said on 13 March 2013

This is a good information leaflet about when you should go to see the dentist.

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User732273 said on 13 March 2013

1. You will only be 'entitled' to a scale and polish if it is clinically necessary. Similarly, if you went to the optician, you would only be 'entitled' to glasses if you needed them.
2. If it is stain removal that you are after, a dentist can decline to provide you this under the NHS as it is considered cosmetic treatment.
3. If you have not been brushing your teeth and there is a lot of plaque around (not tartar), then the dentist will give you advice on how to brush, not do it for you, that's you job. So you may not get a scale and polish.
4. Only if there is tartar build up, which is causing gum problems then you will be entitled to have it removed under the NHS as part of your exam.
5. If you want the dentist to spend more time cleaning your teeth, and there is no clinical indication to do so, then you will also be asked to see the hygienist.
6. A scale and polish do not necessarily come together. you may have a scale to remove then tart and not a polish as the later would be for staining which is again, cosmetic.
7. Finally, to answer a point that was raised earlier, if your dentists recommends that you come say every 6 months, and you decide you want to come every 3 months, they can refuse to see you under the NHS in those extra visits as once again, it is unnecessary.

Hope that helps.

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SRH7 said on 17 January 2013

Kathie1404: Many dentists only do scale and polish as and when necessary, so it will be down to your opinion versus the clinician's opinion as to whether you need it. I probably have one every three years, and that's fine with me as I think my teeth don't need it any more than that (I don't smoke, use an electric toothbrush and floss, which seems to keep plaque in check). If there is plaque build-up that can't be removed by brushing the dentist should do a S&P but if it's just stains they they shouldn't as this is not covered in the NHS contract (considered to be cosmetic rather than a risk to the health of your teeth). The different opinions on the crown is a worry and definitely needs raising. First up, speak to the practice manager. Secondly, if you are not satisfied with the response, contact your local primary care trust's PALS/customer care team (do this soon as after 31 March 2013 the responsibility will have moved to your new GP-led clinical commissioning group so where customer care sits may be a bit more hazy). Hope this helps (I used to work in the NHS, so familiar with the system!)

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kathie1404 said on 01 December 2012

I have been going to my current NHS dentist for in excess of 20 years and every six months have been given a scale and polish as part of the check up. My fist visit this year (new dentist, same practice) said I didn't need one but did say I needed a crown on a tooth that was causing no problems whatsoever!. Second visit (another new dentist) yes I did have stained teeth but no plaque build up (I would disagree about the plaque) would have to pay privately at a cost of £50 or £100. Crown being needed never mentioned! Found out practice has changed hands, I did question this and was told the policy changed in 2008. Why then from 2008-2011 did I receive my 6monthly S&P as part of my treatment? I suspect they are now trying to make money rather than providing the great service I have always had in 20yrs previous.
Any thoughts/comments anyone? I'm taking the scale and polish thing up with the manager next week.

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charlie_s said on 08 August 2012

There seems to be a lot of confusion over S&P. As it says above the dentist will provide treatment that is "clinically necessary" so if a S&P is not clinically necessary i.e if you don't need one, the dentist does not have to do one. There's no such thing as being entitled to a S&P.

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L150 said on 09 July 2012

Dentists always recommend seeing the hygienist because they cannot be bothered to do a S&P and plus the hygienist can charge you more. You should always refuse to see the hygienist as is your right (unless your teeth are really bad!) and demand that your dentist does a scale and polish themselves, then I believe they have to. Hygienists are a bit of a scam really since they don't do anything different to what any normal dentist can do.

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Fresh Breath said on 21 June 2012

Please could you answer a query on S&P, I used to get my two checks ups a year which entitled me to S&P as part of the cost and then I asked If I could have a S&P in between. In effect every 3 months. My dentist at the time said it was ok and for 2 years I had that arrangement.
She left and the owners reversed that arrangement...!!!
Are they right to do that?
Can I have those 2 extra S&P's @ £17.50 under NHS rules or not.

Many thanks

Fresh Breath

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polomint said on 27 April 2012


Scale and Polish is avaliable from your dentist, and if they are telling you they're unable to do it then you should put in a formal complaint against them.

Otherwise, they may be suggesting you need an extensive S+P, to which case the hygenist would be the best treatment for you as they are usually allocated a longer appointment time than the dentist, and it is the area of work they specialise in.

Seeing a hygenist is a private treatment and is not avaliable on the NHS, so you will neither find an NHS Hygenist or be able to bill the dentist after seeing a Private one.

Hope this is helpful.
(I work in a dental practice and this is correct information as far as I know)

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clichoid said on 05 April 2012

I'd like someone to answer this question, relating to the provision of: "scale and polish, an appointment with the dental hygienist". My dentist says I must have this, but won't do it herself and says that I must go to a dental hygienist.

What do I do if I cannot find an NHS hygienist?

Do I use a private one and bill the dentist?

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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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