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NHS dentist charges: are you paying too much?

Going to the dentist isn't cheap, which makes knowing your NHS treatment options even more important. Here is how much you should be paying for your dentist.

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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 need a specific type of dental treatment by your NHS dentist, you shouldn't be asked to pay for it privately.

You may be given the option of going private for cosmetic benefit or for specialist treatments, but it is never compulsory and your dentist shouldn't tell you otherwise.

The decision to choose private dental care and pay extra for treatment is down to you, and you shouldn't feel pressured into it.

What if you go private?

You should still receive a treatment plan, detailing the cost of your upcoming treatment.

The total cost of treatments will vary from practice to practice, so check before you confirm anything with your dentist.

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, 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 this is the case, you may have to pay for a second course of treatment.

How much should they charge?

Unlike most NHS services, it's likely that you will have to pay towards the cost of any dental treatment, unless you qualify for free treatment.

Exactly how much you pay will depend on where you live in the UK, and the type of treatment you have.

If you're on a low income, you may qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme which helps reduce the cost of any dental work you have on the NHS. Anybody can apply, if 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

Find out more about the Low Income Scheme on the NHS website

How is the total capital limit calculated?

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 a property held in trust.

England & Wales

The cost of NHS dental treatment in England and Wales is fixed, but how much you pay will depend on the extent of the treatment you need.

NHS dentist charges are split into three different bands:

  • Band 1: costs £20.60 in England and £14 in Wales. This covers standard examinations, diagnosis including x-rays, dental advice, and minor cosmetic treatment, like a scale and polish, fluoride varnish or a fissure sealant.

  • Band 2: costs £56.30 in England and £44 in Wales. This includes treatments like fillings, root canal operations and the removal of teeth.

  • Band 3: costs £244.30 in England and £190 in Wales. This 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.

Visit the NI Direct website for treatment costs of patients Northern Ireland

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

  • Pregnant

  • Have given birth within the last 12 months

  • Are a hospital patient and 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.

NHS website

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.

Visit the NHS Direct Wales website for details


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.

Visit the Scottish Government website

Is private treatment worth it?

Private dental care is normally more expensive than NHS treatment, but going private could mean you get treated quicker, and have the option of cosmetic treatments that aren't covered by the NHS.

If you are considering using a private dentist, dental insurance could help with the cost of treatment.

With dental insurance, you pay a set premium each month and then when you need treatment the cost is covered by your insurer.

Compare dental insurance policies here

Compare health insurance policies so you can find one with premiums you can afford that comes with all of the benefits and cover options you need.