You are here:

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

Be aware that not all dental practices will have the capacity to take on new NHS patients all the time and you may have to join a waiting list or contact multiple practices before you find a NHS dentist with capacity to accept new patients. You should also be aware that even if you filled in a registration form at your first visit to the practice, so that the dentist can add you to their patient database, that does not mean that you have guaranteed access to a new NHS dental appointment in the future. If the dentist’s quota for NHS patients has been reached by the time you contact the practice you may not be offered an NHS appointment. In that case you can either choose to be seen privately, join a waiting list or look for a different dentist who is taking on new NHS patients.

If after contacting several dental practices you still can’t find a dentist accepting NHS patients, you should contact NHS England, which should be able to tell you about available dentists in your area. NHS England commissions dental services in England and by doing so is required to meet the needs of their local population, for both urgent and routine dental care. You can contact NHS England by emailing ( or telephone (0300 311 2233). Alternatively, visit NHS England’s website

If you feel dissatisfied with the way NHS England handled your concern, you have the right to complain. First, tell NHS England you are not happy with the service provided. Details of how to contact NHS England and what information to provide is given in the NHS complaints procedure. 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 require urgent treatment, please contact your usual dental practice as they may be able to see you or direct you to an urgent care dental service. If you do not have a regular dentist, contact NHS 111 for advice on where you can get urgent care.

Emergency dental treatment will deal with the problem at hand and the fee for the treatment is currently £19.70. 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.

Page last reviewed: 26/01/2015

Next review due: 26/01/2017

Fear of the dentist

Terrified of the dentist? Find out how to overcome your fear