If you’ve been left confused by a trip to your NHS dentist, we’d love you to share your experience. Are you clear about what your treatment will cost before you have it?
The last time I was confused by a trip to the dentist, I was living in Japan. The dentist diagnosed my tooth-pain as being related to mushiba – the literal translation of which is “tooth-worm”. On consulting my dictionary, I was very relieved to find out that mushiba is nothing more sinister than the Japanese word for tooth decay!
The rest of my treatment was fairly straightforward – language barriers aside – I knew how much the treatment would cost, roughly how long the treatment would take, and who my dentist would be.
Does your NHS dentist offer the treatment?
Some people have reported problems with their NHS dentist not fully communicating options or prices. For example, people being left unclear on the difference between private and NHS options, unsure how much treatment would end up costing, or paying for private treatment they didn’t know they could get on the NHS. Z Stiles told us about her husband’s treatment in 2012:
‘My husband was told he needed bridge work and was not advised that this work was available on the NHS. We became concerned that we had been charged privately for work that could have been undertaken on the NHS had we but known. The upshot is we ended up paying £1260 for work which under the NHS fee bands would have cost us £209. We are gutted and wish to seek compensation from our dentist.’
Your NHS Dentist is required to provide you with the cost of your treatment prior to delivering it. But some of your previous examples have shown this isn’t always what happens in practice. John told us:
‘At our dentist there are no prices shown nor do we ever get an itemised receipt. From time to time I get asked about payment when I’ve already paid so always keep my receipts. Where else would they get away with this? Imagine going into a supermarket and never getting an itemised receipt !’
Caught out by the hygienist?
Lots of people don’t realise that if they have a clinical need for the hygienist then they are entitled to a scale and polish on the NHS. So they end up paying for it privately.
A particular issue we’ve heard about is an NHS dentist referring patients to the private hygienist because they say it is better quality than what is offered on the NHS. Dentists are not allowed to do this under their NHS contract but some people still report situations like this:
‘My dentist practice has changed ownership. I am an NHS patient and for a check up I was presented with a bill for £37 – £20 more than the NHS cost for a check up – Band 1 treatment. I asked about this and was told that the hygienist was better qualified than required and provided a better service. I did not pay as I had not been told about the costs before I had the treatment – but it’s clear that I would be expected to pay the additional cost in the future.’
Do you have any similar recent experiences? You don’t need to disclose your dentist or practice at this stage but we’re keen to gather examples for developing our work in this area.