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 (£23.80) 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 want to have any cosmetic dental treatment, such as tooth whitening, this will be done privately. Ask your dentist how much this will cost.
At your check-up, your dentist will assess your mouth, teeth and gums and advise you how to look after them.
What will happen at your check-up?
At your check-up, your dentist may:
- ask you about your medical history and whether you are currently taking any medicine
- 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 best ways to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy
- explain any risks, as well as dental 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 6 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 surgery to make an earlier appointment.
The dental treatment plan
If 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. If you've discussed alternative private options with the dentist, these 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 is not done, query this immediately with the surgery or make an official complaint.
You'll be asked to sign the treatment 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 tell 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 because the health of your mouth, teeth and gums has changed since 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 surgery or make an official complaint.
If you know you will not be able to attend an appointment then please give as much notice as possible to the dental surgery 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 surgery know. You may then need to pay again for a new course of treatment.
While surgeries cannot charge you for not turning up, NHS England has the right to ask you to find another dental surgery if you continue to miss appointments.
Information you should find at your dental surgery
When you visit your dental surgery, some information should be clearly displayed:
- a poster about current NHS dental 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