When it comes to going to the dentist, knowing how much you need to pay can be confusing. If you’re an NHS patient there are different bands to contend with and treatment might even be free, depending on your circumstances. However not every dentist offers NHS services, so you may be a private patient. To help you make sense of all this, we have put together a handy guide that outlines the true cost of dental treatments in England.
Note: NHS dentistry works differently in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In the UK, NHS dentistry is generally not free, but subsidised. The budget for dentistry on the NHS means it can be difficult to find an NHS dentist with availability, and not all treatments are covered. Pricing for NHS dental treatments are split up into three bands:
Band 1: you pay £19.70* covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish and planning for further treatment.
Band 2: you pay £53.90 covers all treatment covered by Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
Band 3: you pay £233.70 covers all treatment covered by Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.
For a more detailed look into what these bands cover, take a look at the NHS website.
When it comes to emergency care, which may only provide a temporary treatment designed to last until you can be seen for further care, only the Band 1 charge is applicable. If you need more treatment within two months of completing a course of dental work, within the same charge band or a lower one – such as another filling – you don’t have to pay anything extra.
If you visit an NHS dentist and need the following NHS-covered treatments, you won’t have to pay a charge for:
To have stitches removed
If your dentist has to stop blood loss
If your dentist only has to write out a prescription (although prescription charges do apply).
Who gets free dental treatment on the NHS?
Depending on your circumstances, you might not have to pay for NHS dental treatments. In England, dental care is free for the following people:
If you are under 18 years of age
If you are under 19 years of age and in full-time education
If you are pregnant, or you’ve had a baby within the last 12 months before treatment starts
If you are staying in an NHS hospital and the hospital dentist carries out your treatment
If you are an NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient (although you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges)
You also may not have to pay if you receive certain benefits. For a more detailed look at who is entitled to free NHS dental care, click here.
If you are on a low income, you can sometimes get help with the cost of dental treatments. The NHS has a Low Income Scheme which provides financial help, which varies depending on your circumstances.
Being a private dentistry patient is not as expensive as it used to be. Prices for most check-ups are now only marginally more expensive than an NHS one, though this is dependent on where you live and which dentist you go to. Also, to keep treatments affordable, many private dentists now offer discount plans and/or low-cost financing options. Many employers now offer private health insurance to their employees and this normally covers some, or all, routine dental treatment too.
Private dentistry may offer a high level of care and may provide innovative treatments. Most cosmetic dental treatments, such as teeth whitening and straightening, are only available privately.
Whether you are an NHS or a private dental patient, sometimes treatments can go wrong; problems can be missed or misdiagnosed. For more advice on what to do when dental treatments don’t go to plan, click here.
*All costs outlined in this article are correct as of October 2016.