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NHS dental services explained

How to find an NHS dentist

Everyone should be able to access good-quality NHS dental services.

There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area.

Simply find a dental practice that's convenient for you, whether it's near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available. 

If you do not have a regular dental practice or are new to the area, you can search for an NHS dentist near you on this site.

Dental practices won't always have the capacity to take on new NHS patients – you may have to join a waiting list, look for a different dentist who is taking on new NHS patients, or be seen privately. 

Once you find a dental practice, you may have to fill in a registration form at your first visit, which is purely to add you to their patient database. However, that does not mean you have guaranteed access to an NHS dental appointment in the future.

Problems finding an NHS dentist

If after contacting several dental practices you still can't find a dentist accepting NHS patients, you should call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

NHS England commissions dental services in England and is required to meet the needs of their local population for both urgent and routine dental care. 

Your local Healthwatch also may be able to give you information about services in your area.

If NHS England has been unable to help you find a dentist and you want to raise your concerns about this, contact them on: 

If you're still not satisfied with NHS England's response, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dental emergency and out-of-hours care

If you think you need urgent care, contact your usual dentist as some practices offer emergency dental slots and will provide care if clinically necessary.

You can also call NHS 111, who can put you in touch with an urgent dental service.

Do not contact your GP, as they will not be able to offer urgent or emergency dental care.

When to go to A&E

Only visit A&E in serious circumstances, such as:

  • severe pain
  • heavy bleeding
  • injuries to the face, mouth or teeth 

If you're not sure whether you should go to A&E, contact NHS 111, who will be able to advise you. Find out when to dial 999.

How much will I be charged?

The emergency dentist will only deal with the problem at hand and provide clinically necessary treatment to stop any pain. An urgent dental treatment will always be charged at Band 1 (£20.60) – see NHS dental charges explained.

If you are entitled to free NHS dental care, you should be able to claim back the cost of any treatment. Ensure you keep all receipts. For more information, see Help with dental costs.

If you are asked to come back for further treatment, this will be considered to be a separate course of non-urgent treatment. You will have to pay the relevant charge for the new course of treatment.

Ask the dentist what the treatment will cost or whether you can have a treatment plan.

Page last reviewed: 28/12/2016

Next review due: 28/12/2019