Dental care costs on the NHS

Many of our readers have commented that they get very confused regarding the cost of NHS dentistry, so we thought we would provide an explanation which might help.

Although provided by the National Health Service, dentistry is not free to everyone. 

You do not have to pay for NHS dental treatment if, at the start of treatment, you are:

  • Aged under 18Finding an NHS Dentist
  • Under 19 and receiving full-time education
  • Pregnant or a mother who has had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • Staying in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist
  • An NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient (however, you may have to pay for your dentures or bridges)

Also, you do not have to pay if, at the start of treatment or when you are asked to pay, you have been awarded:

  • Income Support
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit guarantee credit


  • You are named on a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate, or you are entitled to an NHS tax credit exemption certificate
  • You are named on a valid HC2 certificate

If none of these apply to you, there will be a charge based on the work that your dentist believes to be necessary to achieve and maintain good oral health.  This includes dentures, root canal treatment, crowns and bridges, preventative treatments and fillings.
However, you should only ever be asked to pay one charge for each complete course of treatment, even if you need more than one visit to the dentist to complete that treatment.

Your dentist is not allowed to refuse you any treatment available on the NHS but then offer the same treatment privately. Also, any treatment provided on the NHS has to be of the same high quality as treatments provided privately.

There are three standard charges for all NHS dental treatments:

  • Band 1: £18 from April 1 2013, (the current charge is £17.50) includes an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish and planning for further treatment.
  • Band 2: £49 from April 1 2013, (the current charge is £48) includes all treatment covered by Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
  • Band 3: £214 from April 1 2013, (the current charge is £209) includes all treatment covered by Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.

This covers everything listed in Bands 1 and 2 above, plus crowns, dentures and bridges.
*Charges correct as at 2nd April 2013

Urgent care
If you need urgent care, even if your urgent treatment requires more than one appointment at the same dentist to complete, you will only need to pay one Band 1 charge.

Should you be bombarded with information whilst at the dentist and not be sure how to respond, our advice would be:

  • Ask for a written, itemised breakdown of the costs involved
  • Clarify that the costs are based on NHS rates and not private rates
  • If you are still unsure, ask for time to consider the estimated cost before committing and seek advice elsewhere

Finding an NHS Dentist
To get NHS dental treatment, you should contact a practice providing this service and ask for an appointment.  It’s worth considering first whether this would be best near to your home or perhaps near your workplace.  Once you’ve decided on which is best, check with your friends, work colleagues or neighbours to find out where they go and if they would recommend their own dentist.

If you have trouble finding an NHS dentist, try one of the following options:

  • Visit NHS Choices at
  • Text ‘dentist’ to 64746 or ‘NHSGO’ from your mobile phone in the area where you need a dentist
  • Call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
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