Finding an NHS dentist

Finding a dentist is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more dentists leave the NHS to move into private practice, meaning real problems when trying to find an NHS dentist in your area. Here's what to do

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Why can it be difficult to find an NHS dentist in my area?

The biggest problem is that dentists don’t have to fill a ‘quota’ of NHS patients before taking on private ones – which means that they can have no places for NHS patients at all. If all dentists in your area choose to do that then you might have no choice but to travel somewhere else for NHS work.

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When I first moved to the town where I live now I was lucky as I knew people who were already registered with the only dentist who has NHS spaces on his books, and at the time they were taking on new patients – although that’s quite rare as even they offer private treatment too.

How do I find my nearest NHS dentist?

If you live in England, you can use the NHS Find a Dentist webpage: type in your postcode and it will display all NHS dentists near you.

If you live in Scotland, you can search NHS Inform’s Dental Services Directory.

If you live in Wales, Health in Wales has a postcode-search service for finding dentists  local to you (as well as GPs, opticians and pharmacies).

If you live in Northern Ireland, you can use the HSC Service Finder to find a local dentist.

Of course, finding a dentist near you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find a dentist who’s taking on new NHS patients, so you may need to ring round a few before you find one who is. You could also try searching the directory at Dental Choices, an independent website set up to collate details of dentists who are accepting new NHS patients.

How often should you and your children visit the dentist?

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends between every 3 months and 2 years, depending on the level of care you need. Most people should go roughly every 6 months.

Is NHS dental treatment free?

No – unless you are:

  • under 18
  • over 18 and in full-time education
  • pregnant or if have had a baby within the 12 months before treatment starts (you may to show your baby’s birth certificate)
  • on income support, universal credit (subject to certain criteria) and some other benefits

Most adults in the UK have to pay quite a high proportion of the treatment they get. Prices are split into bands according to what you’re having. They are (prices correct as of July 2020):

Urgent treatment: £22.70. This charge covers emergency care, including a temporary filling or pain relief.

Band 1: £22.70. This charge includes an examination, diagnosis and preventive advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, scale and polish and planning for further treatment.

Band 2: £62.10. This charge includes all the necessary treatment covered by the Band 1 charge, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment or extractions.

Band 3:  £269.30. This charge includes all the necessary treatment that is covered by the Band 1 and Band 2 charges, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

Can you change your dentist if you’re unhappy?

Of course – you should always be happy with the dentist providing your care – but if you want to stay an NHS patient it might take some time to find an alternative dentist.

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