How to find a dentist

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor
Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.
Chris Steele
Updated on
August 31, 2023

Regular dental check-ups and treatments help keep your mouth healthy and can be an early warning system for other health issues. Finding the right dentist ensures you and your family get the dental care you need. Our guide shows you how you can find a denti

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Your options for finding a dentist

When you start searching for a dentist, you have two choices: try to find an NHS dentist or opt for private dental treatment. Initially, it's a good idea to look for a local dentist. It makes travelling to appointments easier, so you're more likely to have regular check-ups.

Here are the main differences between NHS dental treatment and private dental practices' services.

NHS dentists

NHS dental treatment is categorised in bands according to urgency and the cost of the required treatment.

An NHS dentist will typically be able to offer you the following treatments:

  • Routine check-ups
  • Scale and polish
  • False teeth
  • Fillings
  • Treatment for a dental abscess
  • Crowns and bridges
  • Root canal treatment
  • Wisdom tooth removal (as long as you meet the NICE guidelines for removal)

Your dentist can also offer orthodontic treatment, such as braces, that improves the position and appearance of your teeth. However, you may need to go for private dental treatment if you or your child don't meet the criteria for NHS treatment.

The main difference between NHS dentistry services and private dental care is that the NHS doesn't cover cosmetic dental treatment such as tooth whitening. However, you may be able to pay your NHS dentist for private treatment.

Treatment plans

Depending on the type of treatment you need, your dentist may provide you with a written treatment plan. The plan should set out the treatment you need, how much it costs, if it's available as NHS dental treatment, or whether you'll need to pay privately.

If you need private dental care, you may be able to pay your NHS dentist to carry it out, or you can opt to see a private dentist instead. For example, if you need a crown to replace a broken tooth, your NHS dentist will offer you a silver-coloured crown on a back tooth. However, if it's on a front tooth, you'll need to discuss your options for a porcelain crown and arrange to pay for it privately.

Private dentists

Private dental practices offer all the same treatments as NHS dental services, along with others that aren't included in NHS dental treatment.

Private dentists also typically offer cosmetic dentistry, including tooth whitening, porcelain veneers and orthodontic treatments. These may include Invisalign braces that aren't available with NHS dental care or composite bonding to improve the overall appearance of your teeth.

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Finding an NHS dentist

One of the main advantages of an NHS dentist is that your care will typically cost less than with a private provider. However, it can be a challenge to find a dentist accepting NHS patients. You can start your search by entering your postcode into the NHS' Find a dentist page online and look for a local dentist.

You may have to go onto a waiting list for your chosen practice. Even if you complete a registration form with your chosen dentist, this may not guarantee your appointments in the future.

If you need emergency dental care, you can call a dentist for out-of-hours treatment even if you're not registered with them by contacting them directly or calling 111. You can also go to A&E if you have an injury to your teeth, face or mouth, heavy bleeding or severe swelling to your mouth or throat.

What happens if I can't find an NHS dentist?

It's becoming increasingly difficult to find an NHS dentist. Funding changes in 2006 meant dentists were paid less for providing NHS dental treatment, and more than 2,000 dentists left the NHS in 2021. Even existing NHS dentists aren't taking on new NHS patients, with 90% of practices closed to new adult patients and 80% to new child patients.

If you can't find an NHS dentist, you can contact your local integrated care board for help and advice.

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Finding a private dentist

If you can't find a dentist accepting NHS patients and are happy to pay for your dental care, you can look for a private dental practice instead. Finding one can be as simple as walking down your local high street or typing 'find a private dentist' into Google. However, it's worth doing some research to find a dentist offering high-quality care at a price you can afford.

Starting with recommendations from friends and family whose opinions you trust can be a good start.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) website lets you search for a dentist in your area and provides general information about their inspections and any action they've taken against dental practices. It's generally a good sign if your dentist has links to patient reviews on their website. You can also search for patient reviews on third-party sites like Feefo and Trustpilot.

NHS dentistry costs

You could be entitled to free NHS dental treatment if you're under 18 (or under 19 and still in full-time education), pregnant or have had a baby in the last year or receive certain benefits.

However, if you don't qualify for free NHS dental treatment, you'll pay a fixed cost based on the type of treatment you need.

Band 1: £25.80

Band 1 treatment includes routine dental care and advice. It also includes x-rays and a scale and polish if needed to improve your dental health. Band 1 also covers emergency dental care.

Band 2: £70.70

This includes everything that's covered by band one plus additional treatments, including fillings, tooth removal or root canal work.

Band 3: £306.80

Band 3 includes everything in bands 1 and 2, plus crowns, bridges and false teeth.

If you need additional treatment, your dentist should explain what's required and whether there'll be an extra charge. Some follow-up care will be included in the initial cost, for example, if you've had a filling and need another one. Other treatments carry a 12-month guarantee, while others will carry a separate charge if your original treatment was over two months ago.

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Private dentistry costs

As you'd likely expect, the cost of private dental care is much higher than the cost of NHS treatment. What you can expect to pay varies depending on the type of treatment you need and your location. On average, private dental treatment in London costs more than it does in Manchester. Prices vary because the cost of premises, utility bills and staff wages change depending on where you are.

The costs of initial consultations and individual treatments also vary significantly by location. Surprisingly, the average cost of an initial consultation in London is relatively low at just £57, while it'll set you back £95 in Exeter. Average treatment prices have all risen over the past year.

When you look for a dentist, compare the costs they charge. Many private dental practices offer a monthly payment plan covering a set number of annual check-ups and hygienist appointments. However, some dental practices also offer discounts on additional treatments to patients who are signed up for these plans.

If you have private health insurance, you can also consider adding dental coverage to your policy as an optional extra. Any dental issues you've had in the past five years will be excluded, but it may be a cost-effective way to cover your routine dental care and pay for additional treatment.

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Getting professional advice

At MyTribe, we think it's vital that you're able to make informed choices about your healthcare. Our guides help you to understand your options so you can find the right care for your needs.

If you'd like to learn more about how private health insurance can help you access high-quality dental care, please get in touch. We'll put you in contact with a specialist, regulated broker for professional advice tailored to your circumstances.

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Chris Steele
Founder and Editor

Chris is our resident private health insurance and healthcare expert. He has over a decade of experience writing about private medical insurance and treatment. He's Chartered Insurance Institute qualified and is regularly quoted by the national press.