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70 Years of the NHS: What you need to know about NHS Dental Treatment today

  • This year, 2018, marks 70 years since the NHS was established. The establishment of a health service that was free at the point of use for every person in the country was a radical idea and it is fair to say that 70 years on, the NHS is one of the government bodies that people all across the country rely on daily.

    By Katie Parr

An advert from the time informing the public about the new NHS reads:

“It will provide you with all medical, dental and nursing care. Everyone – rich or poor, man, woman or child – can use it or any part of it. There are no charges, except for a few special items”.

Dental care was available on the NHS from its very inception in 1948. Dentists, who were all previously attended by patients paying out of their own pockets or through their private medical insurance, were encouraged to sign up to take on patients funded by the NHS as well.

In the UK today, around 51% of the adult population attended NHS dentists for their dental care in the past two years. It’s important to understand what treatments your NHS dentist can provide, whether you will have to pay and what your rights are if something goes wrong.

Are there any restrictions to seeing an NHS dentist? Will they turn me away?

Anyone can see an NHS dentist if they wish to. Unlike with a GP, you do not have to live within a certain distance of the dentist you want to see. However, not all dentists take on NHS patients and some only have a certain amount that they see each year. This means that you may have to call a few dentists before finding one that has enough space to see you, or you may be put on a waiting list.

What dental care is provided on the NHS?

The NHS is there to provide all necessary treatment to keep your teeth and gums healthy. All NHS dentists will make a decision about what treatment is necessary based on your own clinical presentation, not on your ability or not to pay.

Procedures to improve how your teeth look, i.e anything considered ‘cosmetic’ and not functional will not be provided on the NHS. This is not to say that you cannot have that done in addition to your NHS treatment by your same dentist but you would have to pay.

For example, an extraction of your tooth may be done by your NHS dentist, but if the tooth is not considered ‘functional’ then they may not replace it, as to do so would only be for cosmetic reasons. You could however, then choose to pay for a denture or implant yourself. This would not affect your ability to get the initial treatment on the NHS.

It may also be that a filling of your back teeth is necessary, however, an NHS dentist would likely only provide a metal coloured filling. This would make the tooth fully functional, but cosmetically you may prefer a white coloured filling and this may not be provided on the NHS.

Do I have to pay for my NHS dental care?

Perhaps. NHS dental care is free for those who meet certain criteria. This includes those aged under 18 (or under 19 in full time education), those who are pregnant or gave birth in the previous 12 months, those on certain types of state benefits such as income support, ESA, Jobseeker’s allowance or Universal Credit. Make sure you check the NHS website if you are unsure if you qualify for free dental treatment.

If you don’t meet the above criteria then you will have to contribute to your NHS dental charges. The charges are on three levels, which do slightly increase from year to year :

  • Band 1 – £21.60. This includes examinations, diagnosis, x-rays, scale and polish.
  • Band 2 – £59.10. This includes fillings, root canal treatment, tooth extraction.
  • Band 3 – £256.50. This includes complex work like dentures, crowns and bridges.

Depending on what treatment you are given by your dentist you will have to pay one charge for that complete course of treatment, even if the treatment takes place over more than one appointment, such as a root canal treatment.

The cost of the work from different bands are not added together but the lower band treatment is automatically included in any higher band treatment. For example, if you went to the dentist for an examination and they took x-rays (Band 1) but they also said you required a filling (Band 2) which they did for you, you should only be required to pay £59.10, the Band 2 amount and not, £80.70 for both a band 1 and band 2 treatment.

The dentist should always explain the cost of each treatment to you whether you are paying the NHS charges or paying for private treatment.

My dental provider does private appointments and NHS appointments, will I be treated worse if I am an NHS patient?

No. The standard of your dental treatment must meet minimum standards whether you are an NHS patient or a private patient.

There may, however, be some differences between what individual practices offer their NHS and private patients. For example, some NHS appointments will only be available during work hours or at more limited times than private appointments.

Dental practices may do both NHS work and private work, but this does not mean that all the dentists working there do NHS work. It may be that you cannot see your dentist of choice at a practice if they do not do NHS work.

Can I still make a claim if my NHS dental treatment was free?

Absolutely. Just because your treatment was provided for free or at a reduced cost, it does not mean that it should be done to a lower standard than any one else’s dental treatment. If you have had negligent dental care by an NHS dentist then you may be able to claim to get any replacement or restorative work done privately.

If you are concerned that you have had negligent dental work done, do contact us through our webpage.

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