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NHS dental services explained

What to expect when you visit the dentist

When you see your dentist for a check-up, they will first carry out an examination or assessment. This is the first part of each course of NHS treatment and is included in the Band 1 (£20.60) charge.

You do not have to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP to receive NHS treatment. Therefore, you should not be asked to have an examination or pay for any private work before being accepted by an NHS dentist.


If you haven't seen a dentist for several years because of fear or anxiety, read our tips to ease fear of the dentist. Read about your dental team for an overview of the different professionals you may see at your dental practice.

At your check-up, your dentist will assess your current oral health, any risk of future disease, and advise you on the care and treatment required to secure good oral health. It is important that you try to keep your teeth healthy and clean to maintain good oral health.

At your check-up, your dentist may:

  • carry out a full examination of your mouth, teeth and gums
  • ask about your general health and any problems you have had with your teeth, mouth or gums since your last visit
  • ask about and give advice on your diet, smoking and drinking
  • ask about your teeth-cleaning habits and give you advice on the most appropriate ways to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy
  • explain any risks, as well as costs, of all treatment you may need
  • discuss with you when your next visit should be

Many of us have got used to going to the dentist every six months but you might need to go more often or less often than this depending on how healthy your mouth and teeth are. Your dentist should talk to you about when you should have your next appointment.

If you have problems with your teeth between check-ups, contact your dental practice to make an earlier appointment. Find out about emergency dental care.

The dental treatment plan

Download a treatment plan (PDF 19Kb) and take it with you to your next dental appointmentIf your dentist recommends a Band 2 or Band 3 dental treatment, you'll be given a personal dental treatment plan (PDF, 19kb) in advance. This outlines all the treatments you are having on the NHS and how much they will cost. If you are not given a treatment plan, ask for one. Treatment plans are usually not given for Band 1 dental treatments, but you can ask for one if you like.

If your dentist says you need a particular type of treatment, you should not be asked to pay for it privately. Where alternative private options have been discussed, then those options should be listed on your treatment plan. Separate details of any private treatment and associated costs – usually on the same form as your NHS treatment plan – should always be provided in writing before you commit to it. If this isn't done, query this immediately with the practice or make an official complaint.

You'll be asked to sign the plan and you'll be given a copy to keep.

If you're unhappy about agreeing to your treatment plan or signing it, you have the right to say no to all or any of the recommended treatments. You also have the right to seek a second opinion from another dentist. However, you will have to pay another Band 1 fee for this new consultation.

If you decide not to proceed with a certain treatment option then inform your dentist. Likewise the dentist should inform you of any necessary changes to the treatment plan. A dentist may suggest a different treatment sometimes 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 your dentist tries to change that course of treatment without your agreement, query this immediately with the practice or make an official complaint.

Missed appointments

If you know you will not be able to attend an appointment then please give as much notice as possible to the dental practice so they can cancel your appointment and offer your slot to another patient. Your dentist can terminate your treatment if you miss your appointment without letting the dental practice know. You may then need to pay again for a new course of treatment.

While surgeries can't charge you for not turning up, NHS England has the right to ask you to find another dental practice if you continue to miss appointments.

Information you should find at your dental practice

When you visit your dental practice, the following should be clearly displayed:

  • a poster about current NHS charges
  • the surgery's complaints procedure
  • a written statement about how the surgery meets the requirements for infection control, health and safety, X-rays and continuing professional development of dentists

In addition, you should be given a leaflet about the surgery and its services. If you cannot find any of the information, you have the right to ask for it.

What your dentist should not do

Your dentist should not:

  • offer NHS treatment to children on condition that a parent or guardian becomes a private patient
  • suggest that NHS treatment is sub-standard
  • make you pay privately for an examination to assess whether you will be accepted for NHS treatment
  • charge you for missed appointments for NHS treatment
  • charge you a deposit before any assessment of your treatment needs has been carried out

While surgeries can't charge you for not turning up, NHS England has the right to ask you to find another dental practice if you continue to miss appointments. 

Page last reviewed: 31/01/2017

Next review due: 31/01/2020

Form FP17

Everyone visiting an NHS dentist is required to sign the patient declaration on the FP17 form.

Patients entitled to receive free or reduced cost NHS dental services will be required to read and sign the claim on the back of the FP17 form. Please only sign this section if you are absolutely certain that you are entitled to receive free or reduced NHS dental services as you could be liable to a £100 penalty in addition to the normal NHS dental charges. If you are not sure about your entitlements pay the full costs first and claim a refund once you can prove your entitlement.

If you have applied for a qualifying benefit or exemption certificate but have not received it yet, you should also pay the costs upfront and then claim a refund later on. If you are found to have wrongly claimed free or reduced cost NHS dental services, you will have to pay a penalty charge of up to £100. You can download the FP17 form and read guidance on how to fill out the form on the NHS BSA website.


NHS dental charges

  • Emergency dental treatment – £20.60
  • Band 1 course of treatment – £20.60
  • Band 2 course of treatment – £56.30
  • Band 3 course of treatment – £244.30

For more information see NHS dental charges explained.