Who is entitled to free NHS dental treatment in England?

You do not have to pay for NHS dental treatment if, when your treatment starts, you are:

  • under 18 
  • under 19 and in full-time education
  • pregnant or you’ve had a baby within the 12 months before treatment starts
  • staying in an NHS hospital and the hospital dentist carries out your treatment
  • an NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient (although you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges)

You can also get free NHS dental treatment if, when the treatment starts or when you’re asked to pay:

  • you’re included in an award of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit guarantee credit or Universal credit (check entitlement after October 31 2014) 
  • you’re named on, or entitled to, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • you’re named on a valid HC2 certificate 

If you're named on a valid HC3 certificate, you may not have to pay for all your NHS dental treatment. HC2 and HC3 certificates are issued under the NHS Low Income Scheme.

You will not be exempt from paying for NHS dental treatment if you receive one of the benefits below when paid on their own:

  • Incapacity Benefit
  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Council Tax Benefit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Pension Credit savings credit

Proof of your entitlement

You’ll be asked to show your dentist written proof that you’re entitled to financial help with dental treatment. This will vary depending on your circumstances. To check what documents you need, see the NHS HC11 leaflet: Help with health costs (PDF, 287kb).

NHS Low Income Scheme

The NHS Low Income Scheme provides financial help to people not exempt from charges, but who may be entitled to full or partial help with healthcare costs if they have a low income. Anyone can apply as long as they don’t have savings or investments over the capital limit. In England, the capital limit is £16,000 (or £23,250 if you live permanently in a care home).

Help is based on a comparison between your weekly income and assessed requirements at the time the claim is made. Entitlement broadly follows Income Support rules to decide how much, if anything, you have to pay towards your healthcare costs, including dental treatment.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) website has more information about the NHS Low Income Scheme, including how to apply.

Read the answers to more questions about dental health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 06/05/2014

Next review due: 05/05/2016