This guide explains how to navigate the NHS charging structure, how to find an NHS dentist and what to do if things go wrong.

dental checkup

 

This guide explains how to navigate the NHS charging structure, how to find an NHS dentist and what to do if things go wrong.

How NHS dental charges work

There are three standard NHS treatment bands in England:

Band one (£23.80) – This covers treatment including a clinical examination, diagnosis (including x-rays), scale and polish (if needed), application of fluoride or fissure sealant and preventative advice.

Band two (£65.20) – Includes everything in band one, plus further treatment such as non-surgical gum treatment, fillings, root-canal work and tooth removal.

Band three (£282.80) – Includes everything in bands one and two, plus treatments made in a lab, such as crowns, bridges, orthodontic treatments and appliances, dentures and bridges.

Prices rose in December 2020.

You should pay only one charge for a course of treatment, even if you visit the dentist a few times – so three fillings and a crown recommended on the same treatment plan would all be covered by the band three £269.30 charge (a crown would take you into band three).

Wales has a similar banding system to England, with the equivalent of band one charged at £14.70, band two at £47 and band three at £203.

Northern Ireland and Scotland have the same system: the charge to the NHS patient is 80% of the dentist’s fee to a maximum of £384.

Five things you need to know about NHS dental charges

If you need a treatment you should not be expected to pay privately, although your dentist should explain suitable private options you can consider. Dentists are not allowed to refuse any treatment available on the NHS but then offer it privately, or to suggest that NHS treatment is inferior.

If you go to a dentist that offers both NHS and private treatments, and you need a treatment such as root-canal work, you should not be asked to pay for it privately. However, your dentist should explain suitable private options you can consider. You may choose to have the treatment privately.

Certain people get free dental care, including those who are pregnant; those under 18 (or under 19 in full-time education); and those entitled to certain income-related benefits.

If you need band two or three treatment, and pay dental charges (in other words, are not exempt from charges), you should be given a written treatment plan.

Your dentist should have a prominently displayed price list in the surgery – if you don’t see it, ask.

Finding an NHS dentist You can search for a dentist in England on the NHS website (or Health in Wales, NHS Inform in Scotland, and HSC Online in Northern Ireland). At the moment, it might be difficult to sign up as an NHS patient at a dental practice, due to the impact of Covid and lockdowns. It’s a bit of a postcode lottery – some areas have much higher waiting lists and backlogs than others. It’s worth calling around to a few different dentists to find out where you can get an NHS appointment; you are not bound to a catchment area for a dental practice in the way that you are for a GP. If you need urgent treatment, you might be able to get an emergency appointment from a local dentist, or call NHS 111 to be put in touch with an emergency dental service.

Finding an NHS dentist

At the moment, it might be difficult to sign up as an NHS patient at a dental practice, due to the impact of Covid and lockdowns. It’s a bit of a postcode lottery – some areas have much higher waiting lists and backlogs than others. It’s worth calling around to a few different dentists to find out where you can get an NHS appointment; you are not bound to a catchment area for a dental practice in the way that you are for a GP. If you need urgent treatment, you might be able to get an emergency appointment from a local dentist, or call NHS 111 to be put in touch with an emergency dental service.

Questions you should ask

Before the appointment

How much will it cost?

Will x-rays be included (if you’re paying privately)?

During the appointment

What are my dental problems?

Can you explain my treatment options?

What are the pros and cons, or risks and benefits, of each option?

What are my NHS and private options – and costs associated with each?

What would happen if I don’t have the treatment?

When do I have to pay? How long will it take?

Is the work guaranteed for a length of time?

If I’m unhappy with the results, who pays for the work to correct problems?

If there are complications and I need more treatment, will there be extra charges?

What can I do to prevent further problems?

What can you do to help me prevent further problems? How can I contact you if needed after treatment?

How to complain about your dentist

Step 1:  Informal resolution

If you’ve got concerns or complaints about NHS or private treatment, as your first step ask your dentist or dental practice to investigate. They should take it seriously and are required to have a complaints procedure. However, if your complaint is about a dental professional’s ability, behaviour or health, contact the UK-wide professional regulator the General Dental Council on 020 7167 6000.

Step 2: Taking it further

If you’re an NHS dental patient, you can complain to NHS England (or the national equivalent in Wales or Scotland), as it commissions dental services. See www.nhs.uk. If you’re a private patient, contact the free UK-wide Dental Complaints Service on 020 8253 0800; https://dcs.gdc-uk.org/ The Care Quality Commission also regulates dental practices in England (separate regulators in UK countries), but doesn’t deal with individual complaints – although it encourages patients to feed back issues.

Step 3: If you’re still not satisfied

If the NHS is not able to resolve your concern, contact the independent Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman in England (each UK country has an ombudsman). If you’ve had poor treatment from your dentist, we can advise you of your rights, and help you work out what to do next.