/ Health

Struggling to find an NHS dentist?

How easy is it to find out which NHS dentist in your area can give you an appointment? We’ve found that getting accurate information can be a real struggle.

When I needed to see a dentist urgently, following an accident, a couple of years ago, I looked first on NHS Choices, the Government’s official NHS website, and got an appointment with a local dentist within a couple of days.

Turns out I was very lucky.

NHS Choices is the second most popular way that you try to find your dental options, we’ve found. But when in March we called 500 practices advertising NHS appointments on the site, a third told us they couldn’t offer us any NHS treatment whatsoever.

Frustratingly difficult to find an NHS dentist appointment

We gave them another chance in May. Maybe a new NHS financial year would make it easier to get an appointment. But the problem was actually slightly worse – 37% of the 500 practices couldn’t give us an appointment. In many parts of England, you’d have to call at least three dentists before getting an NHS appointment.

Not what you want when toothache kicks in.

We also found problems with people being asked to pay non-refundable deposits before booking, long waiting lists of up to two years, and out-of-date practice websites. A number of people were also offered private care as a speedier (but more expensive) alternative.

Time to clean up their act

None of the problems we uncovered are new. The Office of Fair Trading investigated the dental sector in 2012 and made recommendations for it to clean up its act.

And our own investigation earlier this year discovered that many dentists are failing to explain treatment options and prices.

We think too little has been done in these areas, and in access to information. We’d like the Competition and Markets Authority to look into progress to date.

Have you used NHS Choices? Did it help you find a dentist with availability, or were you turned down?

Richard says:
16 June 2015

I invariably can get an appointment with my dentist at a university dental centre within a week or so. My previous dentist stopped taking NHS patients. My problem at 89 is that I have lost most of my teeth and as I am not on benefits the cost of dentures would be astronomical. Not the fault of my dentist but the system

Dr John Barnett says:
16 June 2015

I have never had a problem finding a new Dentist nor have I ever had any trouble getting an NHS appointment with a Dentist whether I needed a routine appointment or an urgent appointment. The charges that Dentists make have risen significantly but that is the way things happen these days
However the increased charges could make life very difficult for people who are on low incomes.

lyn evans says:
16 June 2015

Agree with what others are saying the NHS dentist at the practice I go to just try to guilt you into having work done makes me think about not bothering to go at all. It just feels as bad as being ‘cold called’ it makes me really cross and now I don’t trust what they are saying!

Linda Dale says:
16 June 2015

Finding an NHS dentist where I live not a problem any longer – thanks to our MP who worked tirelessly to ensure her constituents had access to an NHS dentist This was some six years ago and now one of these dental practices has gone private It is not just finding NHS dentist to register with for treatment but finding one that isn’t a driller and filler and carries out quality work.. This was my experience I had a tooth filled and within 12 months lost the filling and the whole tooth collapsed(.I have two teeth which were filled about 35 yrs ago and the fillings have never come loose. I have not been back to this dentist although will have to as this issue needs to be resolved. The dentist in question has now moved to the other NHS dentist in town.I don’t get help with dental treatment as my small occupational pension takes me over the threshold for help with treatment.I am thinking of taking out private insurance.

In May last year I booked an appointment with my NHS dentist and the agreed charge was 50.50. The dentist cancelled the appointment at the last minute because of illness and I was unable to book a new date until the following July as I was going abroad. The dentist told me there would be an additional charge of 18.50 as I was not completing the treatment within 2 months. This eventually proved to be an incorrect statement, but as I protested at the time I was struck off his register. It seems that dentists are allowed under certain circumstances to charge more than was originally agreed, even when the type and extent of treatment is unchanged. This constitutes breach of contract.

16 June 2015

I don’t see nhs good dentist any more. My last denture i have paid £ 350 and i cannot wear it that causing me vomiting it is not healthy this dentist belong to 107 deansbrook road.
Now i don’t have dentist maybe more than 8 year. I don’t know how can i find good dentist aroud edgware town.

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Nigel Wilkinson says:
16 June 2015

I get an appointment for the next 6 monthly visit when I am at the dentist. My big moan is lack of transparency for pricing. No prices are displayed at the practice or on any of the literature. A routine 6 monthly visit costs £40, and I recently had a filling replaced which cost £100. Was this a figure plucked from somewhere, it certainly wasn’t a published figure.

Lydia says:
16 June 2015

One NHS practice in colwyn bay got wait of two years my daughter registered over four years ago and still can’t be seen . Another one wait of nine months

Tony says:
16 June 2015

Been at my present Dental Practice for 40 years. Although it has recently changed hands from a husband and wife run Surgery to a much larger one. Offered NHS treatment as before and all the prices are displayed and everything explained. They offer dental Insurance if you want it, but otherwise it seems this practice has got it right. You can also book appointment’s on line.
Only change is they ask for payment before treatment. Reason patients were walking out without paying !

Hygienist is now private not NHS as they could not get anyone to do it at NHS rates, I am told.

Pete French says:
16 June 2015

These poor dentists have to make a living. The only way to do that nowadays is not be ‘lawful, truthful, legal or decent. Haven’t people realised this yet!

Eddie says:
16 June 2015

I was told by my present dentist (who is supposedly carrying out NHS work) I needed a new dental bridge. Totally flummoxed when told it would cost £3000! Tried to deal with another local dental practice shown on NHS Choices as carrying our NHS work. I was dealt with very poorly and left in no doubt that if I wanted a new bridge I would have to pay for it privately. Tried to take redress through NHS complaints procedure. After letters and emails I eventually received a very unsatisfactory response that essentially blamed this dental practice’s reception staff.

Went back to my own dentist who said that if I didn’t want to pay for private treatment my only option would be a dental plate.

Felt like I was going round in circles, so gave up.

From Prospects.ac.uk:

Dental Foundation Year 1 (DF1) graduates working as vocational dental practitioners (VDPs) start on around £30,000 a year.
Most dentists are self-employed contractors, mixing NHS with private work, and earn between £50,000 and £110,000 annually, while wholly private dentists can earn £140,000+.
Some dentists choose to work in salaried posts in the Community Dental Service (CDS), known in England as the Salaried Primary Dental Care Service (SPDCS). Salaries in the CDS/SPDCS range from £38,095 to £81,480. Other salaried posts exist in the armed forces and in corporate practices.
In NHS trust hospitals, dentists are paid according to nationally defined scales; for more details see NHS Careers . Salaries at consultant level range from £75,249 to £101,451 a year.
Locums can expect to be paid £300 to £500+ a day.

However I believe this is after a 6-7 year training – so 3 or 4 years longer than most graduates.

Would you commit so much of your early years to it and do it for this sort of money? You can see why the bright sparks go into banking and pull our teeth in other ways.

MrRee says:
16 June 2015

The taxpayer pays for the Dentists training, they should be forced to work for the NHS for a period of 5 years after completing their training.

My dentist, before the current charging structure, recommended I had a bridge …. after the current charges came into effect that suggestion has changed to get false teeth!!!

Dentists are under the impression that they deserve a footballers salary and look to the public to pay for that dream ….. it’s a situation which needs fixing – as I said, by making them work for 5 years for the NHS after training.

MrRee, I assumed like other undergraduates they are charged up to £9000 a year for their education. Is this not the case? I assume other medical training carries the same cost – but maybe you can put me right.
If, however, this is the case then as well as paying for their education for around 5 years they also forgo the 5 years pay that those who do not go to university get – let’s say around £125,000. So if I am correct their training in effect costs them around £170 000. Quite a commitment. It will take some time to get that back.
However, you may have better information.

Vic Astwood Bank says:
16 June 2015

We have been looking for an NHS dentist local to us for years – no joy what so ever they all say no spaces available but if we would like to go private they may be able to help!!!!!

I registered with our local NHS dentist. I even had a couple of appointments. But then they cancelled my check-up and I could never get another appointment. My husband registered with them and they cancelled his first appointment – for which he’d had to wait 6 months. Do they get money just because people are registered? If so, they are cheating the system when you don’t actually manage to see them.
On the othed hand, my son is happy with his NHS dentist.

Jeff says:
16 June 2015

It’s disgrace that dentistry was in effect privatised years back and the way it has developed is hardly surprising. Charges are high and inconsistent, it is virtually impossible to enrol as an NHS patient and all sorts of spurious services have grown up, presented as essential to good dental health care, but actually designed to squeeze every last penny out of the client (we’re not patients any more).
There ARE some good, honest dentists, but, in my view, the current system positively encourages motives other than the welfare of the client/patient. As soon as the profit motive is introduced into any care system, its integrity is potentially compromised.

William John Buchanan says:
16 June 2015

As before in the Drilling for Gold Saga regards the past dental practice abuses. Seems very little has changed. In the dental practice that I currently attend know one explains to you that the previous dentist that you previously saw has left. The dentist you will see has just qualified. In the time that I have been at this practice I have seen 4 different dentist, not one person has said that the dentist who owns the practice takes newly qualified dentists. In fact in all the time that I have been a NHS dental patient. I have never known a dentist discuss the treatment that he intends to give you. One time when I refused to pay for a badly fitting denture the dentist took me of his list. So much for fair play.

I have an NHS dentist and I have never had a problem getting an appointment. However when I had a nasty abscess I couldn’t get it treated on the NHS and was offered the opportunity to spend £650 on private treatment -£80 for a prior consultation. I now have 1 less tooth at the back of my mouth because no one would try to root treat it.

16 June 2015

Moved area almost 2 years ago & it has taken almost 12 months to get an appointment with an nhs dentist,….Not only am i not impressed with that,…but you definitely feel like you’re getting an inferior service…
I needed a filling after a piece of tooth had broken off,…initial appointment & examination was by the dentist,…then i saw someone different to do the ‘filling’,….Was not told until afterwards that this person was a dental hygienist & not a qualified dentist…!….It would have been nice to have been informed prior to my appointment….Also expected to pay for the work done before the actual appointment….
I can’t help feeling that if i was a private patient, i would recieve better treatment in more ways than one

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Anthony Miller says:
16 June 2015

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought we were entitled to dental treatment under the NHS? That being so, then if no treatment can be obtained within a reasonable time period, then it is time we sent in invoices for the excess costs.

John says:
16 June 2015

Dentistry in this country is one big con, since Mr Blair and his amateurs interfered some years ago, one of their regular cons is to take out one tooth and say the gap is too big for an NHS bridge, and therefore you do not qualify for NHS pricing ie £450.

Their solution is to tell you it can only be done privately, ie £2000………in my view dentistry should be taken out of the medical category and put into cosmetic alongside nail technicians make up artists.

I look forward to someone sorting their malpractices out.