/ Health

Why I love my NHS dentist

Male dentist smiling

I found my new NHS dentist so easily that I can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to go private. But maybe you’ve tried and failed to find an NHS dentist, or for some reason prefer going the private route?

I have a confession to make – I love my dentist. That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s hard not to love someone a tiny little bit when they provide you with a service everyone had told you was impossible to find.

Having spent a shocking two years without a dentist, I finally bit the bullet and went on the hunt for a new one.

Everyone had told me NHS dentists were impossible to find, that none were accepting new patients, and that when I finally did find them they’d spend most of the appointment trying to persuade me to go private.

Instead, I used the NHS service finder tool and discovered a lovely dentist at a surgery just round the corner from my work. He was helpful, informative, and willing to do everything I needed within the NHS pricing bands.

Of course, I’ll always feel a bit stung if I have to pay a lot for work. Band 3 dental costs come in at £198 (complex procedures like crowns and dentures) and I’m reluctant to spend that much on anything that doesn’t come with a touchscreen. Still, it’s far cheaper than going private.

Dentistry in the UK has improved

In the past few years we’ve campaigned to improve NHS dentistry for patients across the UK. Hundreds of people wrote in with nightmare stories of impossible-to-find practices, and confusion over costs. But things are changing; you can now search NHS Choices more easily for a dentist that will suit you, and the government recently announced pilot tests to find better ways of providing NHS dental services.

Perhaps my experience is unusual, but it seems to me that good service from NHS dentists is more common than we might think. As well as the improvements mentioned above, the NHS directory now allows patients to comment on the service they’ve received – a good way to keep any service provider on their toes!

The websites of private practices, on the other hand, tend to feature ‘testimonials’ from satisfied customers, rather than ways to give direct and open feedback.

Why pay for private dentists?

Given the improvements, surely it’s less tempting to go private now? I know people who have considered private treatment, but were then frightened off by the prices and ended up back in the welcoming arms of the NHS.

I’ve also heard stories of people who’ve paid a fortune for private work only to have it corrected at an NHS practice later on – a thought that makes me shudder. Twice the anaesthetic and twice the pain for the same dental problem? No thanks.

So do you use an NHS dentist or do you go private? At Which? we’re all for your right to choose between the two – but either way you should get clear information about the treatment you’ll get and the amount it will cost before it starts.

Could you persuade me to go private, or have I just encouraged you to look up your local NHS dentist and give them a try? If so, good – that was my nefarious plan all along…

Peter L says:
29 April 2015

NHS dentists are poor … they have a limited skillset, limited knowledge and are shoddy workmen. they are not worth their inflated salary which I think is now at around £80,000 per year. Invariably, they can only perform a limited set of treatments which temporarily solve the problem (bearing in mind that ‘temporarily’ may be several years) but which lead to further problems later on.
if you have the money, I would suggest going private, even as a ‘trial’, just to see the difference in treatment available. some private dentists are of course better than others …

Peter – You cannot generalise in the way that you have done, and many dentists do both NHS and private work.

For years I had a good NHS dentist but he had a very serious accident. Rather than closing the surgery, a private dentist was brought in. He was a nice chap but the standard of workmanship was appalling. Apart from a novice NHS dentist who was not good with injections, I have been happy with NHS dental care.

With private medical care I have had good and bad experiences, as with NHS treatment.

Louise says:
30 April 2015

My in laws got to the same practice as me and my husband. We registered 2 years ago when we moved and were delighted to be taken on as nhs patients. However, my in laws have been with this practice for many years and have not been offered nhs. They have asked to change but have been told that it is only new customers that can be taken on as nhs patients. Is this right? If not, what can they do?

farhan says:
4 May 2015

Not a dentist (i’m a complete contrast – an accountant). But some of the stick dentists get is appalling. My oral hygiene is poor (I blame university and the studying…) but my dentist on the NHS was amazing. I feel sorry for dentists having to put up with all the hate they get for going private. When you pay the prices NHS dentists get paid, how can they meet costs? A lab technician told me dental crowns cost over £140 to make. It takes 2 hours to put a crown on (then postage etc). If they charge you £500 for a private crown, thats £360 for 2 hours of work. My charge out rate is more than that PER HOUR. And I didn’t have to go through the difficulty of studying dentistry (it’s hard – my friend studied dentistry and he put a lot of work into it).

The whole system is a con! I don’t blame the dentist as they often do private and NHS work. I assume the Government must be to blame. The treatments NHS dentists provide is not fit for purpose. I needed a root canal and was told by the dentist I should do it privately as the tools she used on the NHS may fail as they were not good. Apparently, they were not expensive but the difference in cost to me was huge. I chose to stay with the NHS as it was much cheaper and the root canal did fail. Then my only option was to go private to get it fixed or have it removed! It’s shocking how many British people simply can’t afford to have treatment. Most people that have any connections in another country now go abroad as the service is far cheaper and far superior.

mark says:
2 November 2020

After many years of NHS dentists i can only say I’m only having private treatment now.
My latest NHS one was pretty useless i even had to get an x ray somewhere else to show her what was wrong under my crown!
The only other good dentist I’ve had was in Kusadasi Turkey who really knew her stuff and everything she said about my oral health as spot on much cheaper price wise but long flight.