/ 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with people being asked to pay non-refundable deposits before booking, long waiting lists of up to two years, and out-of-date practice websites.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?


The price difference does not make much difference . They are now calling restorative cosmetic so you need to fork out further.Outrageous. Also if you need sedation as the injection so painful the anaethetists will not take the risk .I have even been hoodwinked in Budapest & Prague over the same situation ??!!Recently I needed urgent work in a hospital an hr away .The appt came a year later after had got it done by travelling 100 miles each way to a former dentist who is an anaethetist & my sister can drive me
to her place 15 miles away.

I was working in Scotland and saw a dentist there with ease. Excellent care at a fraction of the NHS costs here in England.

This morning my back tooth sheared off. I have partial dentures and this was my only tooth left that I’m able to chew on.

Can I get a dentist appointment? No!! I’ve phoned 20 dentists and all say the same – 2 to 3 months waiting time! Oh dear. What can be done? I cannot afford private dental care. Is there anything I can do?

Five weeks into the Covid-19 lockdown, the government has allowed “routine procedures” to resume, which I assume includes routine dental practices as well. Trying to find an NHS dentist right now is like trying to pull teeth, if you will pardon the pun. I have tried three dental surgeries’ telephone lines within NW London already and advised bluntly that there are “no NHS patient appointments available”. Trying online through appointment forms is no better – as soon as I click “Insurance: NHS” the available appointments vapourise from their respective appointment calendars. This a completely unfair situation that the government seems to year after year do nothing about. I, like many others here, cannot afford private dental work prices. What are we to do to have our teeth and gums checked and any remedial work carried out on the NHS, to which we are supposed entitled? It’s completely unfair and unjustifiable.

I live in London and have called (wait for it…) 42 dental practices and only managed to find 7 (5 of which were just excepting children). This is ridiculous, we are heading towards a tooth decay crisis.

Adrian Peirson says:
30 June 2022

Welcome to 21st century Britain, courtesy politicians over the past 50 yrs.