The truth about NHS dentistry

How much it should cost to visit your NHS dentist and how much it costs you in reality could be two very different figures. Moneywise TV asks why this is the case.

Kids up to 16 and those on low incomes qualify for free NHS dentistry but the rest of us have to pay. But how much?

You will only have to pay one of three prices depending on the level of complexity of your treatment.

So if these charges are so straightforward why are so many of us confused about how much we should pay? Is it because we're being taken for a ride?

Many dentists offer private services alongside NHS care and will sometimes say they can only carry out certain treatments privately, which will invariably cost more. For example a scale and polish falls within band 1 treatment but many dentists will refer their patients on to a hygienist, costing around £50 a pop.

James: Should scale and polish be offered as an NHS service?

Dentists receive money from the state based on a points system. But vastly differing levels of treatment - in terms of time and cost accrue the same amount of points, making the system unpopular with dentists.

James: Could you explain why the current system is unbalanced? (ie a dentist will be paid the same to do six fillings and a root canal as one extraction?)

As a result some dentists use questionable tactics, known as gaming to make up their apparent shortfalls. Practices include splitting treatments up to get more money or even undertreating. Others choose not to offer NHS dentist services anymore.

James: Why have you stopped offering NHS dentistry services?

Like James, dentists don't have to offer NHS services, they can also choose to opt out if they argue they are losing money.

For us patients it's important to be backed up in knowledge: know what's included within the different bands and the price.

Remember that with any treatments within two months you won't have to pay more than the initial fee.

Ask your dentist to be upfront about charges - because we are no longer required to register with one practice, there's nothing stopping you going elsewhere.

Your Comments

When asked if my NHS dentist would polish my teeth, I was told the NHS did not provide this service, and the cost would be £200.

I visited my dentist & was told that i had some worn front teeth & that the dentist wanted to do some exploratory tests by taking impressions of my teeth & that i would have to wear a gadjet like brace , this was going to cost me £1037 ,this was before any treatment was given . after wearing this brace she could find what treatment was required & i would be charged accordingly when the treatment was given. I am an NHS patient & thought there was a cap on how much i had to pay.
could you please advise

It's ok saying there's nothing stopping you going elsewhere but there is a big problem with that, there are so few dentists taking on NHS patients that there is no choice anymore, there is only one dentist in my area taking on NHS and so I have to got there with my children I can't trail 6 kids on the bus miles away.

Over the 12 - 18 months up to February 2011 I received a dramatic reduction in the quality of mmy treatment from what had been a good NHS dentist with decades of experience. Some of this was due to [I believe] increasing dementia symptoms including mainly poor memory.
I was increasingly told that a]crowns, and b] a replacement bridge were not available on the NHS. I had the crowns on the NHS @ £1200 then discovered 3 months later that I was being charged Private rates for subsequent visits - without being informed!
His procrastination regarding replacing a bridge has meant my having 3 front teeth extracted, and having now to wear dentures.
Another tooth required extraction as had been repeatedly "bodged" and the crown replaced.

This is causing patients to become unwell and adding to the existing NHS expense.

Complaints to the dentist were ignored and denied. Primary Care Trust were not interested as I had complained 1st to the Practice even though it was them that told me to address the Practice in the first instance.

I now have an excellent Private dentist working his way through my mouth. Quite expensive but luckily I do have Insurance that has so far covered 2/3rds of the cost.

Finding this dentist was arduous and meant trips to and treatments from dentists that were rude [ALL of them] and 1 that patched up my bridge even though he had x-rayed the area.

Things can only get worse I feel if no-one will face up to the dentists doing the dirty on patients.
The only legal road may be Trading Standards and/or Small Claims.


Firstly, the dentist plans the treatment depending on your needs. If you ask for a "polish" and there's no clinical need in the dentist's view, you cannot have it under NHS meaning you need to pay privately. If you need a massive Scale and Polish to remove layers and layers o calcified plaque, requiring to spend a lot of time, to "educate" you to prevent the same happening etc , you will have to pay privately. Pooy guy has to make a living and £17.50 will not pay even his dental assistant's wages!

I prepaid for NHS dental treatment which was a filling. Just before my appointment my mother was taken ill & consequently died. Later I re-booked the appointment and then my father was in hospital so I cancelled again.
By the time I re-booked it was over 3 months and because of that I had to pay an extra £17. My dentist checked but they would not take any circumstances into consideration.
It's not really fair is it?

I've just had a check up, xrays, scale & polish, 3 teeth extracted and 3 new teeth added to my existing plate...........for £47 (the second band of charges) at Alpha Dental Studio, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire. Fantastic service and, as far as I know, they are taking on new NHS patients.

I went private (denplan) after NHS dentist literally runied my smile - its the best direct debit I have and id give up all other luxury before giving up my denplan. My dentist has rebuilt my blue teeth (the metal fillings showed through the tooth) so I can chew again. Since I moved over I have not had a filling and my teeth are fine, yet when I left my NHS dentist it was because he wanted to fill 7 yes 7 more of my teeth. I simply did not need anything doing! Also on a side note my bad breath was cured by having the teeth rebuilt properly so they can be cleaned - amazing! Not to mention my children getting the same excellent service with the same dentist even though they are NHS. In my experience NHS was so very expensive for such poor treatment  and denplan though not cheap encourages me to go very regularly with out any scary bills afterwards. Not paying for denplan was false economy for me.

The dentist who operates in my village is all for removing teeth rather than filling. Also when I had a new denture made I was told that I had to give it time to settle in. I did this but after a month of extreme discomfort I could not stand it any more. The dentist did not offer sany help and it really put me off. I cannot afford to throw £200+  down the drain just to keep a dentist in work. Bring back the old system which put the patient first.  

You certainly sound as if you have done the right thing. Could you tell me how to contact Denplan.

5 years ago, my NHS dentist told me out of the blue that my gum disease was so bad that I needed immediate periodontal treatment to prevent the loss of all of my teeth.  Furthermore, he informed me, this treatment was only available privately and he handed me a glossy brochure from another dental practice and urged me to use them.  The prices for the treatment ran into £000's.  I did not accept that this treatment should only be available privately and so fter doing some research I complained to my dentist and the local PCT. I asked to be referred to a dental hospital but my dentist said I would be turned away as every patient he had referred for this problem had been so far.  He said my only option was to pay privately or let my teeth fall out.  The PCT were no use as they stood by the dentist. After insisting ( and it took a few times) , he reluctantly referred me and I am now in my 5th year of treatment at a large teaching hospital whose staff are wonderful.  My condition is now stable and the intensive treatment should end shortly.  The clinician who first saw me said I should have been referred to them years before and was amazed when I said my dentist had told me I would be turned away from the hospital. I needless to say changed my NHS dentist and can only assume that he had some financial gain to make from trying to get me to go privately, and to that particular practice,  Who knows.  The whole episode left me feeling very disappointed in a profession that has people like that supposedly responsible for patient care.

I pay my plumber £30 per hour.  My dentist has to provide his premises and equipment (£1000s worth at a modest estimate) pay a trained dental nurse and a receptionidt, and provide all necessary drugs (anaesthetics, fillings etc).
Your TV repair man will charge a minimum of £70 hust to look at the job abd do a quick repair
How many £17.50 jobs an hour can a dentist do and still cover his outgoings and make a living?  Are your teeth less valuable to you than your TV?


I also went abroad, namely to MySmile in Bratislava where I received excellent care.

Firstly, It is not £17.50 per hour for the dentist.  You never receive an hour with the dentist for your consultation.
Secondly, A dentist has received all their training free on the NHS whether he then goes on to work with private patients, NHS only or both.
In addition. A dentist also receives an amount of money from the Local Health Authority depending on the number of NHS patients they have registered with their practice and the number of NHS treatments they offer on a periodic basis. 
So to use the argument "how can a dentist afford to work at £17.50 an hour?" is completely moot.  No dentist works at £17.50 an hour even if they where offering NHS services 100% of the time.  That would be the equivalent of saying, how can a pharmacist afford to provide prescription medicines at £7.60 a pop?
The state funded their education 100%.  If a dentist does not provide NHS services during his/her career and make clear the NHS services available during their "price options" chat, it is positively amoral and we have a right to feel ripped off.