Revealed: how to find an NHS dentist
It's hard to keep cheerful when you've just paid out huge sums for dental treatment. So how can you survive a trip to the dentist financially unscathed?
Ever gone in for a routine dental checkup and ended up with a hefty bill? Expense, it seems, has overtaken fear as the number one reason for not paying a visit to the dentist. Widely criticised for confusing pricing and poor service, the dental industry was investigated by the Once of Fair Trading earlier this year. Shockingly, the findings revealed an estimated 500,000 patients may not know what they are entitled to on the NHS because dentists don’t tell them. Here’s what you need to know...
Don't give up
The good news is, it’s offcially got easier to find an NHS dentist. So, if you’re still looking, here’s what to do:
● English and Welsh patients can call NHS Direct in 0845 4647, or search by postcode at nhs.uk and wales.nhs.uk respectively.
● In popular areas you may still have to join a waiting list. Contact your local primary care trust to do this.
● Go to n-i.nhs.uk for Northern Ireland. Scottish patients should go through their local NHS health board, see scottishdental.org.
Ask for the total cost before you agree to treatment. Charges (with the NHS price bands) should be clearly displayed.
Come to your surgery armed with the facts. In England, NHS treatment is broken into three pricing bands by complexity of work. Straightforward work, like checkups and X-rays, costs £17.50 (band one); tooth extraction, root canals and fillings (band two) cost £48; and band three work, such as crowns and bridges, costs £209. Pricing is different in Wales and Scotland*.
Don't pay too much
You should only ever pay the upper limit of a course of treatment. So if you have band one and band three work as part of the same treatment, you’ll pay a total of £209 – not £209 plus £17.50.
Be in the know
You don’t have to pay extra if you’re referred to a di erent dentist for work on a current treatment or any follow-up treatment within two months of previous work. Repair or restoration work that has lasted less than a year is also exempt from charges as long as you see the original dentist. Emergency care costs £17.50 (band one rate).
Get a cheaper clean
Did you know you’re entitled to a scale and polish as part of your checkup? NHS guidelines state this is included – if needed – but all too often we’re told to see the hygienist at extra cost.
If your dentist won’t offer the treatment you’d like, then go somewhere else. There’s no paperwork – unlike moving doctors.
Spread the cost
Private medical insurance is a luxury many of us do without, but check your work benefi ts package as dentalwork may be included. Alternatively, low-cost cash plans start from around £7-£20 amonth, covering everyday care, including dental work, which you claim back after treatment.
Everyone knows we should brush our teeth for two minutes twice a day, yet one in four adults don’t, according to the British Dental Health Foundation.
Get good service
If you’re not happy with your treatment, complain to your dentist, keeping a record of paperwork or calls. Go to pals.nhs.uk to find your local Patient Advice and Liaison service for more advice on how to progress a complaint.
Survey on reasons for not visiting dentist: Simplyhealth. *In Wales band one: £12, band two: £39; band three: £177. Scotland and Northern Ireland have a variety of charges, go to Scottishdental.org and hscni.net for more details.
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