Several myths about dentists are persistent in the minds of the British public. A lot of question marks remain around NHS dental pricing, the differences between NHS and private dentistry, and whether, or how, you can move around once you have seen a dentist in your area.
In this article we try to dispel some of these myths, in order to make it easier for you to make the best decisions around your dental care. If you have further questions or know of additional ‘myths’ or points that need clarity, send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) You need to see a dentist every six months
The interval between each dental or hygienist appointment depends on your dental health status. For example, if you have had very little dental treatment in the past, an annual check up may be suitable for you. Remember that your dentist checks for oral cancer during your check up, and this should be done once a year.
2) NHS dentists choose who they see
NHS dentists do not have any eligibility criteria for UK residents, unlike GP practices. To clarify, you can move around between dentists as you wish – without needing to register or move your records. You can live in Bristol and see an NHS dentist in London, or vice versa. It also means you can compare prices, reviews and other information for a particular treatment and go for the practitioner you believe is best for you. You simply pay for the treatment you have (usually after the treatment is done) and the prices are fixed – a check up for example is £18.50, even if you need X rays.
3) NHS dentists choose what treatment they offer
The NHS offers a limited service to help stabilise your dental health. Any treatment that is considered cosmetic, for example tooth-coloured fillings and crowns for the back teeth are not covered. Your dentist can advise what is and isn’t covered during your first check up appointment. Teeth whitening, teeth straightening for adults and dental implants are only available on a private basis. An NHS practice also has a contractual limit of how much NHS dentistry it can offer to its patients, which is why you will sometimes see that an NHS practice will not take on more new patients for the year.
4) Private dentistry is very expensive
Private dentistry is offered at thousands of dental practices and millions of patient use private dental services across the UK. It represents around 30 pence out of every pound spent on dentistry. Private dentists set their own fees and are competitively priced. Many offer dental plans, which can start from £12 a month, paid by direct debit and others offer interest-free finance to cover more expensive treatment. Before any active treatment starts you can review your costs via a written treatment plan that includes costs. It is worth noting that there are also dental discount plans, soon to be offered via Toothpick, that means you can get an immediate discount off treatment, without having to wait to claim.
5) You can register with an NHS dentist
Since 2006, patients are not registered with an NHS dentist. They can access any NHS dentist they choose but once treatment is completed the practice does not have any contractual relationship with the patient. This means just because you have seen an NHS dentist in the past, it does not automatically entitle you to access the same NHS dentist in the future. In practice, most patients choose to continue seeing the same dentist.
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Note: References to NHS dentistry applies to England only.