Here is how to make sure you are getting a fair deal when you take a seat in the dentist's chair:
What are your rights?
If your NHS dentist tells you that you need treatment you have a number of rights that protect you as both a patient and a consumer:
No need to go private
If you are a private patient you should still receive a treatment plan, detailing the cost of your upcoming treatment.
The total cost of treatments and obligations of the dentist should something go wrong will vary from practice to practice.
If you are told you need a specific type of dental treatment by your NHS dentist you should not be asked to pay for it privately.
You may be given the option of a private alternative for cosmetic benefit or for certain specialised treatments but going private is never compulsory and your dentist shouldn't tell you otherwise.
Ultimately the decision to choose private dental care and pay extra for unsubsidised treatment is yours alone and you shouldn't feel pressurised into it.
As many visits as your treatment requires
As an NHS patient you will only pay once for each type of treatment you need, regardless of the total number of visits you need to make to your dentist.
The exception to this rule is if you required an emergency or an unscheduled visit at the beginning of your treatment.
What if something goes wrong?
If any dental treatment you get on the NHS fails within 12 months then your dentist should repair or replace what's gone wrong free of charge.
The exception to this rule is if you were told that the treatment was a temporary measure or unlikely to be a long term fix - if that is the case you may have to pay for a second course of treatment.
How much should they charge?
Unlike most NHS services, it is likely that you will have to pay something towards the cost of any dental treatment you get on the NHS, unless you qualify for free treatment.
Exactly how much you will pay will depend on where you live within the UK and the type of treatment you have.
If you are on a low income, you may qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme which can help reduce the cost of any dental work you have on the NHS.
Anybody can apply, provided that you have a total capital limit of:
Less than £16,000 a year if you live in England, Scotland or Wales
Less than £23,250 if you live permanently in a care home in England or Scotland
Less than £24,000 if you live permanently in a care home in Wales
Your total capital limit is calculated by combining your annual income with any money held in savings.
This would include the value of any property owned but not lived in by you, for example a rental property or property held in trust.
England & Wales
The cost of NHS dental treatment in England and Wales is fixed but how much you will pay will depend on the extent of the treatment you need.
NHS dentist charges are separated into 3 different bands, with set costs for each:
Band 1: £19.70 in England, £13.50 in Wales
Band 1 covers standard dental examinations, diagnosis including X-Rays, dental advice and minor cosmetic treatment including a scale and polish or the application of fluoride varnish or a fissure sealant.
Band 2: £53.90 in England, £43 in Wales
Band 2 includes treatments like fillings, root canal operations and the removal of teeth.
Band 3: £233.70 in England, £185 in Wales
Band 3 includes treatment like crowns, dentures and bridges.
Scotland & Northern Ireland
If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you will pay 80% of the cost of your NHS treatment, up to a maximum of £384 per treatment.
A breakdown of treatment costs for patients based in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Direct website.
Who qualifies for free treatment?
Regardless of where you live in the UK, you will qualify for free dental care if you fall into one of the following groups when your treatment begins:
Under 18 years of age
Aged 18 and still in full time education
Have given birth within the last 12 months
Are a hospital patient & the treatment is carried out by a hospital dentist (excludes Scotland)
You may also qualify for free dental treatment if you get certain benefit payments or are a war pensioner, although this varies depending on where you live.
England & Northern Ireland
You could qualify for free dental treatment in England and Northern Ireland if you receive certain benefits either when your treatment starts or when you're asked to pay.
To check if you qualify, visit the NHS website or the NI Direct website.
If you live in Wales you won't have to pay for a standard dental check-up if:
You are aged under 25
You are aged over 60
Additional treatments following your check-up will incur the standard charge.
You could also qualify for free dental treatments if you get certain benefit payments, you can check if you qualify for free treatment by visiting the NHS Direct Wales website.
To claim free treatment in Scotland you must tell your dentist that you qualify in advance and bring the appropriate documents to show them.
You can check if you qualify for free treatment and the documents you need by visiting the Scottish Government website.