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Private dental care – is it worth it?

Dental patients in the UK can get low-cost care through the National Health Service (NHS) or opt for more flexibility with private dental care. You’ll find pros and cons for both options, so it’s important to understand your choices. Your personal needs and preferences play an important role in helping you decide whether private care is the right choice for you.

How the NHS Works

The NHS provides low-cost dental care to patients in the UK, which is focused on stabilising your dental health. In England necessary dental treatments fall into one of three bands. Each band has a set price point. For example, band 1 contains all basic care including examinations, X-rays, and cleanings. This means you will pay one set price whether you get an exam or you get X-rays and a full cleaning. You must seek treatment with a dentist who accepts NHS patients to take advantage of this program.

How Private Dental Care Works

If you want cosmetic treatments such as teeth whitening, you must use private dental care. However, you can also choose to use private dental care for all your treatments. When you use private dental care, you typically have more dentists to choose from and more flexibility with your care plan, since there are no NHS restrictions to limit your choices. Some private practices also offer low cost or free finance options to help your spread the cost of your dental care.

Comparing Prices

The NHS uses three price bands that neatly encompass all dental care.

  • Band 1: £18.80 – Basic examinations, X-rays, scale and polish.
  • Band 2: £51.30 – All treatment in Band 1 plus fillings, extractions, root canals, and denture relining.
  • Band 3: £222.50 – All treatment in Band 1 and Band 2 plus crowns, bridges, and dentures.

Private dental care is usually more expensive but can offer the latest in cosmetic dental treatments, like teeth straightening and teeth whitening. A basic dental examination, which would cost £18.80 with the NHS, would typically cost between £25 and £45 privately. You fall behind if you need a large filling though, at a price of £50 to £95 privately – that carries flat fee of £51.30 with the NHS.

Patients can opt for dental insurance to help cover the cost of private dental care. The insurance is similar to gym membership and is designed to encourage you to stable dental health and therefore reduce your future costs. Some practices offer their own dental insurance and is useful if you intend to stay at the practice for some years. Others are available to buy online and price comparison sites can help you choose the best cover for your needs. Since both private dental charges and insurance plans vary, it’s worth doing the math to see what your treatments will cost with different combinations of coverage.

Comparing the Level of Care

While the low, fixed price of NHS care is beneficial to patients, it puts dentists in a difficult position. Dentists are incentivised to reach targets based on completed treatments they perform and so generally very few offer comprehensive advise to prevent dental disease. There is no incentive in the way they are paid to treat patients with complex dental needs.

This can limit the time you spend with an NHS dentist and is the main difference from private dental care.

If you need extensive dental work, private dental care is usually the best option because you will have more experienced dentists who have invested considerable amounts of time and money to focus on cosmetic options. If you just want to see a hygienist for regular cleaning then choose private as very few hygienists work in the NHS sector.

If you’re looking for a low-cost way to get regular cleanings and minor treatments, the NHS is a simple alternative that offers clear pricing options for basic care. You might find however that with a limited amount of NHS dentists accepting new patients that you may have to travel some distance to see one. For more information about this topic, please visit the NHS Choices website, and click here for our comprehensive infographic on NHS dental pricing.

You can view and book both NHS and private appointments in your area on Toothpick.

  • Milka Stewart

    I really think, that there is no big difference, where would you take an appointment with dentist, in private clinic or not. IF THE specialist is good and loves his job, he does not mind, he works in private clinic or not. Best wishes, Dantu Protezavimas

  • IBMA Digital

    yes dental care is definitely worth as dental diseases are 4x more common than asthama

  • drbhalla

    It would really act depending upon the pros and cons of what you follow either public or private dental sector! When it comes to judging where to go, there are certain factors like time flexibility, close attention, in-time post-op care and many others that would really matter a lot to consider!

  • Ihsan Khaliq

    This all depends on the kind of treatment that you want! If you want more care and attention I would always suggest a private dentist.

  • Bawtry Dental Clinic

    This all depends on the kind of treatment you want. If you want a private dentist they will generally spend much more time on your teeth and are not bound by time. I’m a private dentist in doncaster, a small town and I find many of my patients have tried NHS treatments first, only to find the treatment has been substandard. A public sector dentist needs to get as many patients through the door as possible because the Government pays towards the treatments, whereas a private dentist can charge private prices but can take the commitment to give that patient individual care.

  • Mark Civin

    The heath system is something that really worries me about here in UK. I have read some articles in Florida that have a good heath system that pays for almost everything.

    • Tiffany Bennett

      Dental care is far more affordable in the UK. I’m in Florida and have been quoted $7000-9000 (£4851-6237) for the work I need done. These would be covered under the £222.50 ($321). There’s not any sort of assistance for someone aged 21+ in Florida.

      • Boyseys Mum

        Tiffany if you need lots of work doing you’ll not get it done for £222 on the NHS, no way. What would happen would be that the practice would never call you back to get the work done. I needed a crown and my front tooth bleaching and the NHS dentist kept saying we’ll call you soon with an appointment etc.It never happened. Also in some areas its very hard to actually get an NHS dentist and many of the ones that do take NHS patients have terrible reviews.
        I had another catastophie when a crown fell off and the tooth broke, I ended up having to pay privately for 2 crowns and a root canal. Theory is one thing with the NHS and practice is another. If you need a check up or small filling you’d be o.k.

  • Den Martin

    I am agree with Milka regarding dental care specialist competence in private clinic or not. I suppose taht in private clinic personnel is more customer and patient oriented. Regards, Dantu Protezavimas

  • sherwoodpark

    Sometimes money should be neglected when there is major dental problem. Although there are many family dentists in UK who provide affordable dental care.

  • Coleen Winton

    Great blog post. Thanks for sharing this one. #dentalbands #Orthofill

  • Daniel Wyatt

    I think private dental care is worth it especially if you want to ensure your dental health. Also, based on my experience, being a dental assistant in a kitchener dental clinic, most of our patients are satisfied with what they have spent with their money.

  • Daniel Wyatt

    Yes private dental care is worth it than having your money spent on some other non-important things. You can check South Airdrie Smiles dental site for information on this ideal dental clinic, I’m very happy I chose this dental clinic.

  • Neha Dalal

    Private dental care is worth every penny. I needed to get a smile makeover done so i went to my dentist who i came across when I read Dentzz Review . The advantage of going to a private dental care is that they have wider choice of dental treatment options, while treating the patient they do not rush the procedures, they tell you precisely what needs to be done and explain the treatment properly. I prefer going to a private dental center as it matches my needs.

  • Abour Dental

    Private Dental CLinic in UK is affordable and you dont have to be to much worry about the cost thanks for sharing the article