Is It Worth Going to NHS Dentist?didsburyadmin
In the UK we are facing an ongoing dental crisis. Waiting lists for new patients to join new dental practices are incredibly long in some places with people even having to be turned away.
More than 2,000 NHS dentists in England left the health service last year with staff shortages across the country.
Tens of thousands of adults and children are unable to get the dental care that they need. In 2022 a mere 34% of adults in England had been able to access a dentist in the last two years.
On top of a lack of dental staff, NHS dentists also face a general lack of funding. Covid-19 exacerbated these issues and the British Dental Association predicted that to get funding back to where it was in 2010 it would take around £880 million a year.
Who gets free treatments on the NHS?
Some people are exempt from paying for NHS dental treatments. You will be one of these people if you are:
- under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education
- pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months
- being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the hospital dentist (but you may have to pay for any dentures or bridges)
- receiving low-income benefits, or you’re under 20 and a dependant of someone receiving low-income benefits
Low-income benefits is a fairly broad term and includes different types of benefits. This means that you and your partner (spouse or civil partner) could receive any of the following and be able to get free NHS dental treatments:
- Income Support
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- Universal Credit (in certain circumstances)
- Certificates to help with health costs
You can also get NHS dental treatment for free if you are named on or entitled to:
- a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- a valid HC2 certificate – which is available for people on a low income
- a valid maternity exemption certificate
- People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get help.
Low income can also include pensioners and some students.
If you are entitled to free NHS dental treatments, you will be asked to prove that you are exempt from paying for part or all of your treatment. You will also need to sign a form to verify this.
Can you lose your NHS dentist?
If you miss an appointment with an NHS dental practice without letting them know, they have the right to cancel your treatments. On top of this, if you continue to miss appointments without telling the dental practice, you may be asked to find a new practice. You will, however, never be asked to pay a charge for missing an appointment.
If you are going to miss an appointment, with any dental surgery, you should make sure to tell them in plenty of time. This way they will be able to give your time slot to another patient who may need it.
This is always important for all dental practices but even more so for NHS dental practices. Some people need to be able to go to an NHS surgery and if there is no patient there for that time you will be wasting everyone’s time and even the funding for the dentists.
Can an NHS dentist refuse you?
NHS dentists should not refuse you any treatment they can provide. They should especially never tell you that they cannot provide specific treatment, such as a root canal, and then offer to do it for you privately.
You, as the patient, however, can request that treatment is done privately if this is what you prefer. This can sometimes even be carried out in the same dental practice as some practices offer both NHS and private dental services.
Is there much difference between NHS and private dentists?
So, what are the differences between NHS dental practices and private dental practices?
If you decide to go for an NHS dental surgery then your dentist will only offer you treatments that are seen to be medically necessary for your oral health. This means you can only get treatment with the NHS that is seen this way. In this circumstance, you would never be asked to pay for your treatment privately.
All NHS practices have to work with a fixed budget. This budget comes with limitations that include only being able to have opening hours of Monday – Friday, 9-5.
On the NHS there are of course some people who are exempt from paying for any treatments. There are however some treatments that are free for everyone such as having your dentures repaired or getting your stitches removed.
Private dental practices are quite different. They do not have to work within a fixed budget like NHS practices and therefore can offer a bigger variety of treatments that cannot be accessed through the NHS. You will, however, have to pay for all your treatments.
You can get cosmetic treatments done privately whereas these are not given on the NHS as they are very rarely deemed to be medically necessary as is their criteria. There are many different benefits to choosing private.
Why is a private dentist better than the NHS?
Of course, we all would like to think that we would get the same treatment and services no matter what dentist we choose to go to. We believe that there are many advantages to choosing a private dental practice.
Below are some of what we, at Didsbury Dental Practice, think are some of the biggest benefits of private dental care:
- Wait times for appointments are shorter.
- More flexibility for appointment times – for example, evening appointments, weekend appointments, and appointments outside of regular office hours.
- More flexibility for emergency treatments.
- In general, with a private dentist, you will be able to have more time. This is great as it means you can treat immediate issues and apply preventative measures.
- Higher quality of care because there are no funding restrictions on private surgeries.
- Wider variety of treatment options (e.g. cosmetic treatments).
- More access to treatments that are not offered by all NHS practices (for example, dental implants or veneers).
- More access to dental specialists (including orthodontists, periodontists and endodontists.)
- More easily accessible for nervous patients as specific services such as sedation are available.
- A private practice will have fewer patients registered at it than an NHS practice. This means more attention for you as a patient and better customer service.
- More cosmetic treatments are available than on the NHS (e.g. lip fillers).
- You can often pay with payment plans that are set up to suit you. This way you do not have to worry about paying for everything all at once.
- Private dentists have more time with you and as a result, your waiting room will not be as busy and will be much more relaxed which is especially important if you are someone who gets nervous at the dentist.
- Your minor inconveniences (such as breaking your dentures) will be solved and sorted much more quickly as you can get an appointment much faster.
- You will receive better aftercare as your dentist can take the time to offer you more specific advice for you.
- More access to cutting-edge, advanced dental technology and equipment (e.g. 3D scanning to custom-make retainers for a patient’s mouth.)
- You will be guaranteed that you can see the same dentist each time. This means you will become more comfortable with coming to the dentist and you will be known on a more personal level by your dentist helping them to meet your individual needs.
- Private laboratories have a much quicker turnaround.
So, is it worth going to an NHS dentist?
The answer is that that depends on you. Where the NHS may be able to provide some treatments for free, private dentists do offer payment plans to make dental care affordable.
You may struggle to find a place at one but ultimately there is absolutely nothing wrong with going to an NHS dentist and when it comes to your dental and oral health whatever and whoever helps you isn’t the most important thing. What’s most important is that you get the care you need.