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NHS dental services explained

What's available on the NHS?

The NHS will provide any treatment that you need to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy and free of pain. Decisions about which treatment is appropriate for you will be based upon a clinical assessment and clinical judgement. Your NHS dentist will offer you a treatment option that is clinically appropriate.

Your dentist must make clear to you which treatments can be provided under the NHS and which can only be provided on a private basis so you can make an informed choice. Where alternative private options have been considered then your treatment plan should detail these options. You'll be asked to sign the plan and you'll be given a copy to keep. 

TipUnder the current arrangements, your dentist has to provide you with a written treatment plan for Band 2, Band 3 or a mix of NHS and private treatments.Your treatment plan sets out the proposed dental treatment. Treatment plans are usually not given for Band 1 or urgent dental treatments, but you can ask for one if you like.

If you decide not to proceed with a certain treatment option then inform your dentist. Likewise, the dentist should inform you of any changes to the treatment plan as proposed treatment can sometimes change on further investigation or due to changes in your oral health following the initial assessment. Any changes to treatment should be discussed and agreed with you.


If you are unhappy with the NHS dental care you have received, speak or write to your dental practice first. If you're not satisfied with the way the dentist has dealt with your complaint then you can take your complaint to the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Find out more about the NHS complaints procedure.
TipWhere possible discuss your concerns with the dental practice first. Most issues can be resolved without you having to make a formal complaint. Try having an informal chat with your dentist or a member of staff first. A formal complaint takes time and minor issues are resolved quicker if you just speak to a person face to face, however if you are not comfortable with contacting the dental practice directly then you can contact NHS England.

For more serious cases 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 a dentist’s ability or behaviour is below standard, you can report a dental professional online on the GDC website. The GDC will investigate concerns about:

  • very poor treatment
  • not having professional indemnity insurance
  • cross-infection issues such as using dirty equipment
  • being under the influence of drink or drugs
  • fraud or theft

Common dental treatments available on the NHS


Crowns and bridges

Crowns and bridges are available on the NHS (Band 3, £233.70). As with all restoration treatments, they may need to be replaced in the future. They can also be provided privately. For example, you may be offered a metal coloured crown on a back tooth to help restore the tooth from a functional perspective. You could discuss with your dentist what alternative cosmetic options can be offered privately and the risks and benefits of these to help you make an informed decision.

TipAlso see the section about:


Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form in the teeth or gums as a result of a bacterial infection. Dental abscesses can be treated on the NHS. If you feel unwell or have a large swelling in your face or mouth, your dentist may refer you to a specialist unit for treatment. This treatment will also be on the NHS.

Dentures (false teeth)

Dentures are removable false teeth made of acrylic (plastic) or metal. Dentures are available on the NHS (Band 3, £233.70).

TipAlso read the sections:



Orthodontics is a type of dental treatment that aims to improve the appearance, position and function of crooked or abnormally arranged teeth.

There is a standard method for assessing whether orthodontic treatment is clinically necessary and available on the NHS. Treatment for minor irregularities is not provided by the NHS.

Your dentist or orthodontist will be able to explain to you what alternative options exist if you or your child do not qualify for NHS funded orthodontic treatment. 
TipYou cannot mix NHS and private treatment in orthodontics. The British Orthodontic Society offers patient information about general orthodontics as well as information aimed at adults and teenagers.

You can also find information about orthodontics on this site, including specific information about braces.

Root canal treatment (endodontics)

Root canal treatment is a dental procedure to treat infection at the centre of a tooth (the root canal system). This treatment is available on the NHS (Band 2, £53.90). Your dentist should be able to provide it for you or, where the treatment is complex, refer you to a practitioner with additional skills. The dentist should always discuss with you in advance whether treatment will be provided on the NHS or privately.

Some dental practices may have a visiting specialist coming in to see patients on a private basis and you may be offered an option to see this specialist privately as an alternative to being referred on the NHS. It will be your choice whether you opt for the private treatment with this specialist or to be referred to an NHS specialist service. 


Scale and polish

If your dentist says that scaling is clinically required, then this is available on the NHS. A simple scaling should be treatment Band 1, however, more complex treatment for gum problems may be charged with Band 2.

TipMany dental hygienists now work under direct access where you can request to see the hygienist directly for a scale or polish. Hygienists can only provide this open access on a private basis and you should check the cost of the treatment when booking an appointment.

If your dentist says a scale and polish is not clinically necessary, but you want one anyway then you will have to pay for it privately.




Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth can be removed on the NHS when clinically necessary. Your dentist will assess the need for removal based on guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Your dentist may perform the procedure or may refer you to a dentist with additional experience. You'll be charged with a Band 2 (£53.90) treatment course. Your dentist can also refer you for private wisdom teeth treatment if you wish.

White fillings

Where clinically appropriate, white fillings are available on the NHS and are generally charged as Band 2. For example, if you need a filling in one of your front teeth (incisors and canines) the filling material of choice may be a white filling. If the filling is in on one of your back teeth (such as molars and premolars) then for a large filling the more clinically effective option may be an amalgam filling (a silver coloured material).

Your dentist should explain the options to you in advance. If you prefer to have the white filling or any other cosmetic filling options, your dentist will be able to advise you on the private costs for such treatments and the risks and benefits associated with it. 

Page last reviewed: 26/01/2015

Next review due: 26/01/2017

Not available on the NHS

The NHS will not provide cosmetic treatment options such as teeth whitening, which you may want to make your teeth more attractive but which are not clinically necessary. Even where treatment is clinically necessary the dentist will offer you a treatment option that is clinically appropriate. If you choose to have alternative treatment options then you will have to pay privately for these.


NHS dental charges

  • Emergency dental treatment - £19.70
  • Band 1 course of treatment - £19.70
  • Band 2 course of treatment - £53.90
  • Band 3 course of treatment - £233.70

For more information see NHS dental charges explained.


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