The impact of COVID-19 is an ongoing challenge for NHS dentists who now have a backlog of patients waiting for appointments, many with serious issues, such as severe periodontitis (gum disease), and are at risk of losing teeth.
Some people have even resorted to DIY dentistry, including buying dental kits to do their own fillings and even pulling out their loose teeth. If you don’t want to do DIY dentistry — which we definitely wouldn’t recommend — we have put together this guide to help you find a local NHS dentist.
NHS Dentists Accepting New Patients
The easiest way to find the closest dentist to where you live is by using the find a dentist NHS search tool. This tool is easy to use; you start by entering your town, city, or postcode. The results show dentists in order of closest to your postcode, and the distance in miles is displayed above the dental clinic’s name.
It also tells you if the dentist is accepting new patients. However, there is no indication of how long it will take to get an appointment. This means ringing each dentist, which is both time-consuming and expensive. If, like me, you don’t have a mobile phone contract with inclusive minutes, you may find your credit quickly gets used up while waiting to get through to a dentist.
If you need emergency treatment and can’t get an appointment, you may be offered a private appointment. Private dental treatments cost more than NHS charges, and many people just can’t afford to pay for private dental care. So what should you do if you can’t get an emergency appointment and are in agony?
Emergency Dental Treatment
A toothache or gum abscess can be more serious than you think. If you cannot get a dentist appointment and are in pain, you can go to your GP or an NHS walk-in centre. If you have an infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to help keep it under control and prevent you from getting really ill.
You should go to A&E with toothache or pain if you have swelling in your face or neck, or swelling in your mouth is affecting your breathing or making it difficult to swallow or speak.
Emergency Treatment at NHS Dental Hospitals
I always assumed that NHS dental hospitals worked a little bit like regular NHS hospitals, and if you needed emergency treatment, you could go straight there. I was wrong! You have to be referred by an NHS dentist, which is a problem if you are not already registered with an NHS dentist!
Emergency NHS Dentist Appointments
Ok, if you can’t get an emergency appointment with an NHS dentist and you can’t go to the dental hospital, what do you do if you need emergency dental treatment? According to the NHS website, you need to call NHS 111.
Can Everyone Go to an NHS Dentist?
Not everyone in the UK is entitled to free NHS dental treatment, and to access check-ups and routine dental treatments, you need to be registered with an NHS dentist. The only time you can have dental treatment with an NHS dentist you are not registered with is if it is emergency dental treatment.
The NHS online tool is an easy way to check if you can get free NHS Dental Treatment.
If you are not eligible for free dental care, it is worth checking if you can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). This may cover all or a part of your NHS dental charges.
Private Dental Charges vs NHS Dental Charges
Private dental charges can vary considerably between dental clinics and dentists. When you are already registered with the dentist and only require one treatment, such as a filling or a tooth extraction, this may not be much more expensive than the NHS charge.
However, if you were to need a clinical examination, diagnosis, report, X-rays and a filling, you would pay for each of these, and this would almost always cost considerably more than the NHS. It is important to remember that the NHS will not provide any type of dental treatment considered cosmetic. This includes composite bonding to improve teeth contours and eliminate small chips, veneers, teeth whitening, and Invisalign treatment.
If you are interested in cosmetic dentistry, it is worth finding out how much all the treatments you require will cost at a private cosmetic dentist. A reputable cosmetic dentist should provide a treatment plan with all costs clearly explained and a total price for all treatments. You may also be able to access interest-free finance at a private dentist, which is not possible if you are having NHS dental treatment.
NHS Dental Charges and Bands
If you need to pay for NHS dental treatment, the charges are divided into bands, depending on the type of dental treatment required. This means you will pay a lower rate with an NHS dentist if you need several dental treatments.
When you book your assessment, you need to check with the dental practice if you will need to pay in advance, in stages, or when treatment is complete,
Before making any payments or before treatment begins, you should receive an assessment and a treatment plan. This should specify the band your charges fall into and the total amount you will need to pay. The total should not change even if you require multiple dental appointments and treatment.
Band one treatment includes:
- clinical examination, diagnosis, and report
- orthodontic assessment and report
- scale and polish if clinically needed
The total cost for all treatments provided in band one is £23.80
Band two treatment includes all band one treatments and additional work, including:
- white fillings
- root canal treatment
- teeth extractions
- splinting loose teeth
- treatment for chronic periodontitis (gum disease)
- transplanting teeth (moving one tooth to another area of the mouth)
- oral surgical treatment.
The total cost for all treatments provided in band two (including any from band one) is £65.20.
Band three treatment includes all band one and two treatments and additional treatments including:
- inlays, pinlays, and onlays to restore damaged or decayed teeth
- dental bridges
- orthodontic treatment and appliances
N.B Even if a treatment (such as orthodontic treatment or veneers) is included, they will not be provided for cosmetic reasons.
The total cost for all treatments provided in band three (including any treatments from bands one and two) is £282.80.
NHS Dental Exemption Certificate Helplines
If you need help getting an exemption certificate for free dental care and can’t use the online tools, here are the main helplines. They are open Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 6 pm and Saturday, between 9 am and 3 pm. To use the textphone (minicom) service, dial 18001, followed by the number below you would like to call.
- Medical exemption certificates — 0300 330 1341
- NHS Tax Credit exemption certificate — 0300 330 1347
- NHS Low-income scheme — 0300 330 1343
Taking care of your oral health is important, and if you wait until you have a dental emergency, you may find yourself in a situation where you have little choice over the dentist you are treated by. It is always better to register with a dentist when you only need a check-up or minor treatment, such as a scale and polish. Paying for band one NHS dental treatment is highly likely to save you money and prevent tooth loss in the long run.
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