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Guide to Changing Your Dentist

If you’d like to change dentists, it can be difficult to know where to start. There is currently a shortage of NHS dentists within the UK, which can make it hard to find a new dental practice if you’re unable to pay for private care.

Long waiting lists for appointments may put you off changing your dentist. However, if you’re unhappy with your current practice or have suffered from negligent treatment at the hands of your current dentist, it may be worth considering a change.

This guide includes information about how to find a new dentist, whether you are an NHS patient or a private patient. If you’re unhappy with your dentist and you think you may have suffered from dental negligence, you can make a claim for compensation by contacting the Dental Law Partnership.

See if you have a case for dental negligence:

Start Your Claim

or call us free on: 0800 0853 823

What are the main reasons for changing your dentist?


There are many different reasons that you might want to change dentists and it doesn’t have to be because you’ve had a negative experience at your local practice.

Some of the main reasons for changing your dentist include:

These are the main reasons for wanting to change your dentist, but you might have another rationale for switching. Whatever your reasoning is, the Dental Law Partnership is here to help you with our helpful guide to switching your dentist.

If the reason for changing dentists is due to negligence and the issue occurred within the last three years, you may also be able to make a claim against your dentist. To find out more, fill out our digital form and we’ll go through the dental negligence claims process with you.

Changing dentists due to an issue with the quality of care

If you’ve decided to change your dentist because of an issue with the quality of care, you may also be interested in opening a legal case against your dentist.

You can make a claim against your dentist if you feel they have provided negligent treatment – so long as the negligence occurred in England and Wales within the last three years. You can find out more about dental negligence compensation claims here.

If you have been injured as a result of something your dentist did wrong, you could be eligible for compensation. Injuries can take the form of both physical and psychological harm, and there are several things you can make a claim for.

Some of the most common reasons for making a dental negligence claim are:

  • Failure to obtain informed consent – When you visit your dentist, you have to consent to any treatment that may be carried out on your teeth. Your dentist has to make you aware of any risks or side effects that could occur from treatment. They should also offer you other treatments that may be less risky. All consent has to be obtained voluntarily and you must have the capacity to consent. You’ll usually be given a consent form to fill in before treatment is carried out. However, some dentists fail to do so. If this happens, it means the level of care has dropped and you may be able to make a claim for dental negligence.
  • Failure to treat a dental health condition – If your dentist diagnoses an oral health issue, they have a duty to treat the condition correctly – so long as you have consented to the treatment. If they fail to treat it correctly or don’t attempt to treat the issue at all, you could be able to claim compensation against your dentist. This may also include situations in which an inappropriate treatment has been carried out – particularly if a less risky option was available.
  • Psychological trauma – As well as physical harm, you may also find yourself suffering psychologically if you have experienced negligence when visiting your dentist. This can be particularly debilitating if you already have a fear of the dentist, and it can lead to further health risks if you don’t want to visit your dentist any more.

Whilst these are some of the most common reasons for opening a legal case against your dentist, you may have a situation that doesn’t quite fit into these categories. If in doubt, fill in our contact form and we’ll be able to assess whether you have a valid claim.

If you want to change dentists as a result of their negligence and you no longer feel comfortable being treated by them, you can choose to move to a different practice. It is important to remember that you do not have to tell your new dentist about any issues with your previous dentist, as it’s up to you whether or not to disclose this personal information.

Dental surgeries have to keep dental records for a minimum of two years, so your new dentist should be able to carry out any outstanding treatment for you.

While you may feel that moving dental practices is your only option, this isn’t the case. You can make a formal complaint against your dentist if you wish. The process for making a complaint differs slightly depending on whether you went to an NHS or a private dentist.

You can find out more about how to make a complaint against your dentist by viewing our dedicated complaints page.

If you’d like to start a dental negligence claim, the Dental Law Partnership is here to help. Call a member of our team on 0808 301 8732 or email us using the form on our contact page.


How to change your dentist

If you want to change dentists, the process is largely the same, regardless of the situation you find yourself in.

For example, if you’re changing from a private dentist to an NHS dentist, your new dentist will ask you to fill out a registration form (usually on your first visit), which will give them all of the information they need to request your dental records from your previous dentist. This will allow your new practice to request your previous treatment and diagnostic records from your old dentist.

The procedure is the same if you’re transferring from an NHS dentist to a private one.

Changing dentists as an NHS patient

If you’re changing NHS dentists, there may be a waiting list that you need to join before completing your registration. There is currently a shortage of NHS dentists in the UK, which has been exacerbated by the recent Covid 19 pandemic.

If you need to join a waiting list because there is no room for new NHS patients at your new practice, you may be asked to fill out the registration paperwork at this point. However, depending on the practice, this paperwork may be requested once you are formally accepted as a patient.

If you’re changing dentists within a practice, you would not normally need to fill out any new paperwork, as your records can simply be switched over internally to the new dentist.

You also need to ensure all payments have been made for treatment that has already been carried out.

With NHS dentists, you are not bound to a specific catchment area like you are with a GP. You can choose any convenient dental practice that is currently accepting NHS dental patients. You should give a potential new practice a call to see if they are open to new NHS patients at the moment, or whether there is a waiting list you need to join first.

If you’re changing dentists because you are unhappy about the care you have received from them, you may want to make a complaint. Your dentist should be able to provide a copy of their complaints procedure. You usually have up to one year to make a formal complaint against your dentist – more information about this can be found on our complaints page.

However, if you’d like to go straight to making a dental negligence claim, you don’t need to make a formal complaint first. Simply fill in our online contact form and we’ll get the process started.

Changing dentists as a private patient

Changing dentists as a private patient is often easier than changing to an NHS dentist. Some patients previously registered at NHS surgeries are now choosing to go private because they’ve been unable to find a new NHS dentist.

If you would like to sign up with a new private dentist, you should follow the same steps as you would for an NHS dentist. You’ll want to contact local dentist surgeries in your area to see if they’re taking on new patients. Once you’ve found a new dentist, you’ll need to complete an application form and let your old dentist know that you are leaving.

You’ll also want to ensure all payments have been completed for treatment at your old dentist. If you have private dental insurance, you’ll need to check whether your new surgery is covered by it, as well as working out the costs involved.

Your new dentist will be able to communicate with your old dentist to source your dental records from the past two years.


Changing your dentist mid-treatment

If you’re unhappy with the care you’re received from your dentist, you might want to change practices before your current course of treatment has finished. This should be possible if you can find another dental practice that can take you on as a patient straight away.

Your new dentist can request your dental records from your previous dentist and pick up your care from that point onwards. Dental records have to be kept for a period of at least two years, so there shouldn’t be any issues with record sharing if treatment commenced recently.

If in doubt, consult your current dentist as well as your new dentist to see what the process is. The waiting list may be longer for your new dentist, so if your treatment is urgent, you might be worth switching dentists after it has been completed.


What do I do if I’m unable to find a new dentist?

Many people within the UK are now finding it hard to obtain a new NHS dentist. If you’ve not been for a check-up for a while, you may also need to apply again, which could mean a long wait for an appointment.

However, there’s no need to panic, as there are several steps you can take to find a new NHS dentist if you’ve been struggling to obtain one:



What if I need emergency care and I’m unable to find a dentist?

If you have a dental emergency and require urgent care, it can be hard to know what to do if you haven’t managed to find a new NHS dentist. However, emergency dentist appointments can still be granted, even if you’re not currently registered with a dentist.

Your GP will not be able to arrange any dental work, so you shouldn’t contact your doctor. Some dental surgeries offer emergency dental appointments for patients that are already on their waiting lists, so you may want to consider contacting your usual practice first. Otherwise, NHS 111 will be able to arrange an emergency dentist appointment if you’re struggling to find one.

In some situations you may need to visit your local accident and emergency department. If you’re not sure whether you need to go to a&e, NHS 111 will be able to tell you. You should only go to a&e in emergency situations, which may include:

An emergency dentist will only be able to fix the immediate issue causing you pain, so you won’t be able to have an oral health check with them. You’ll usually face a dental treatment cost charged at Band 1, unless you are eligible for free dental treatment under the NHS.


Are you considering changing dentists due to dental negligence?

If you’ve suffered from dental negligence and you want to change dentists, you may also want to consider going through the dental negligence claims process.

At the Dental Law Partnership, we’re a specialist firm of dental negligence solicitors providing high quality support and legal advice for patients who have suffered from dental negligence.

Since our inception in August 2000, we’ve helped thousands of people claim compensation and get the justice they deserve for the way they’ve been treated by their dentist.

If you’d like to find out more about how to start the claims process, our experienced team is ready to help.

See if you have a case for dental negligence:

Start Your Claim

or call us free on: 0800 0853 823