Is an NHS Dentist Cheaper Than Private?

Millions of people can access NHS dental services without incurring a charge, including children aged under 18 in full-time education; pregnant women; and those receiving income-related benefits. Some opt for private treatment out of convenience or to join monthly payment schemes like DPAS or DenPlan, however.


Dentists charge different rates for services rendered, so it is wise to do your research prior to agreeing on a treatment. An NHS practice may offer more affordable care. Furthermore, you should ask about payment plans which allow for monthly installments that make payments more manageable and affordable.

If you have dental insurance, it can often help reimburse some of your spending for treatments. But beware, as policies only cover certain amounts per treatment and have annual limits; cosmetic work such as teeth whitening is usually not covered.

Although the UK boasts an abundant network of NHS dentists, accessing them isn’t always straightforward. Patients in some regions must travel long distances before finding one willing to treat them on the NHS – an issue which could worsen if government funding for dentistry doesn’t increase, according to one recent study.

Many of the difficulties associated with accessing NHS dentistry stem from budgetary constraints. Furthermore, shortage of dentists may also be related to privatisation of dental sector: since dentists receiving less pay from NHS work tend to prefer treating private patients instead.

Most NHS dentists are self-employed and run their own practices. Before qualifying as dentists, they must complete five years in dental school and pass an exam – however, they are not licensed to perform surgery on humans.

NHS dentists provide much more than regular checkups; they also offer an array of restorative dental treatments such as fillings, root canal therapy and extractions as well as bridges and dentures. Filling options often used include amalgam, which works well when used on back chewing teeth but has become less aesthetically pleasing as composite and white fillings become increasingly popular.

Though NHS dentists are not supposed to offer treatment that’s already available under their mandate and offer it privately instead, some do. This has caused waiting lists to expand rapidly; sometimes patients must wait weeks or months before being seen by one. Private dentists generally can offer immediate appointments.


People who are content with the appearance of their smile and only require short appointments every six months or a year may find NHS treatment ideal. Patients don’t need to abide by a practice catchment area like they would with GPs; therefore they can select any dentist nearby that takes new NHS patients and phone up right then – though depending on your location in the UK you may have to fill in a registration form at your first visit to an NHS dental surgery and join any waiting lists before being offered appointments.

NHS treatments fall into one of three price bands, with bands 1 and 2 covering core restorative treatments such as check-ups, X-rays and basic fillings; bands 3 treatments include root canal treatment and crowns. It should be noted that repeat treatments or similar procedures within three months will be charged as though part of one course of treatment. It should also be remembered that failing to attend appointments as scheduled during treatment could result in your current registration being cancelled (depending on local practice and health board policies).

Private dentistry goes beyond the limitations of NHS band pricing, with numerous payment methods including pay as you go and payment plans like Denplan or DPAS available. Private patients typically enjoy longer appointment times than those on the NHS as well as accessing treatments not currently offered through it, like white fillings for back teeth or veneers.

There are certain exemptions from dental care costs, including those under 19 and in full-time education or pregnant women who receive income support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit; as well as those receiving Disability Living Allowance who will qualify for free NHS dental care.

Treatment options

If you decide to visit an NHS dentist, they will perform a detailed exam and suggest the most suitable treatments for you. They will explain any associated costs as well as address any inquiries or concerns about costs that arise. They may also recommend regular check-up appointments (typically every six months but could vary depending on individual dental health needs).

NHS treatments range from basic fillings and root canal treatment, through dentures. Unfortunately, however, they don’t cover cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening or veneers and patients will have to pay privately since there’s no government money dedicated towards covering them.

NHS treatment charges a maximum fee of PS384, equivalent to approximately 80% of private dentistry in England; it varies according to your location. Some individuals are exempt from paying this full price, including children aged 19 and younger and in full time education, pregnant women who have had their baby within 12 months, pregnant women themselves who have recently given birth, those receiving Incapacity Benefit or Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance benefits (like Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit), those on qualifying benefits such as Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit and Pension Credit Guarantee Credit Guarantee Credit.

Private dental fees tend to be higher than NHS charges, as private dentists do not receive any funding from the government towards covering the cost of treatment, and charges tend to be itemized; some dentists offer payment plans in which a fixed monthly amount is collected before being applied towards treatments as they’re completed.

Many private dental practices provide financing solutions, and it is worthwhile discussing them with the practice you select. Common financing options may include interest-free financing, payment plans or fixed monthly payments so you can spread out the costs over a period of time while planning for your appointment and budgeting accordingly. This option can be especially helpful for those looking for ways to manage spending money over an extended period.


One may assume that private treatments must be superior to NHS ones; this isn’t always the case. Many dentists who offer NHS services provide excellent standards of care; it is just important to remember that this can vary between practices and across the country.

In England and Wales, you have access to NHS dental treatment whenever it is required. Unfortunately, due to long waiting lists it can sometimes be challenging to access treatment promptly in urban areas due to shortage of NHS dentists.

NHS dentists must abide by strict guidelines when it comes to treatment, offering only certain procedures like dentures, fillings and root canal work. Any replacement treatments must also be like-for-like; however this may not always be possible in practice. Private dentists offer more diverse solutions like veneers, adult orthodontics and teeth whitening which cannot be provided on the NHS.

Dental treatment can be costly, particularly if you opt for cutting edge services not covered by the NHS. However, most general private dental care is quite cost effective and comparable with the cost of NHS dental services.

No matter whether it is for an emergency appointment or simply to choose your dentist of choice, taking time to carefully consider all available options is key to maintaining oral health. Being equipped with accurate cost, availability, and treatment information will increase the chances of taking proactive measures towards maintaining oral wellness. At Bamboo Dental we believe that providing patients with access to all relevant facts regarding NHS and private dental care helps them make more informed decisions that will keep their smile vibrant for life.