If you're in pain or know you need dental work, you'll likely be aware that it's currently quite difficult to find an NHS dentist accepting new patients. Whether you need preventative treatment, pain relief, dentures or something else, going private may be the only realistic option for getting help any time soon.
A recent BBC investigation found that 9 in 10 dental practices aren't accepting new adult NHS patients and that a third of UK council areas had no dentists taking on adult NHS patients. For those suffering, it's an awful situation, compounding the pain they're likely experiencing.
YouGov carried out a survey and found that one in five Britons are not registered with a dentist and 37% of those say it's because they can't find an NHS dentist. The Guardian reported that some patients had been advised by NHS 111 to "use salt water" and "keep calling practices until you are seen".
If you are not in one of the groups entitled to free NHS dental care, such as those in full-time education, under 18s, or on low-income benefits, these are the NHS charges you can expect to pay for your appointment and treatments. Remember that just because you may be entitled to free NHS dental treatment doesn't mean you'll be able to get an appointment quickly. You'll face the same challenges as those who have to pay.
Given many people will have little choice but to go private, one of the first questions they'll have is, "What will it cost?". However, with so many practices across the UK, understanding the going rate for treatment can be tricky. Therefore, we've taken the time to look at prices at 20 practices in 20 towns and cities around the UK to help understand what you can typically expect to pay.
Please note: Everything in this article is based on July 2023 pricing. While our research is comprehensive and detailed, it's not exhaustive. Some practices in specific locations charge much less or more than we've outlined.
Here are the key findings of our nationwide research:
Our overall findings are based on 400 quotes from practices up and down the country.
By looking at the fees of 20 dental practices in 20 locations across the UK, we can reveal the most and least expensive places for private dentistry in the UK.
Perhaps it'll come as no surprise that overall London was the most expensive city in the UK, with treatments costing 11% more than 5th place Bournemouth.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were the least expensive places to see a private dentist in the UK, while Manchester was England's cheapest city.
For each of the 20 towns and cities sampled, pricing for six treatments at ten dental practices was obtained. A median price for each treatment in each city was calculated. The median for each treatment for each city was then added to create a total cost of private dentistry for each location. This was then compared against the national average.
All private dentists will start with an initial consultation, and what they charge new patients does differ from existing. In this section, we share what is the most and least you can expect to pay for your first appointment.
The most expensive places in the UK for new customers looking for an initial consultantation were Exeter and Carlisle, where it costs on average £95. Bristol follows closely behind at £87, before Liverpool and Norwich.
Most expensive places for an initial private dental consultation in the UK:
Glasgow is the cheapest place in the UK for an initial dental consultation, typically costing £59. Somewhat surprisingly, and in contrast to the overall cost of dental treatment, London and Manchester are among the cheapest places to have an initial consultation, suggesting that dentists in these cities aim to bring in new customers with low initial fees.
Cheapest places for an initial private dental consultation in the UK:
One of the most common treatments people will need is a filling, so we looked at what they cost up and down the country. Specifically, we recorded what it'd cost for a white composite filling, typically used to match natural tooth colour.
Chelmsford, Sheffield and Carlisle were the most expensive places in the UK to get a filling. Perhaps most surprisingly, London was only the 8th most costly!
Most expensive places for a white filling:
Similarly to our overall findings, Scottish cities and those in Wales and Northern Ireland were very competitive places to get a tooth filled.
Cheapest places for a white filling:
There are several types of root canal treatment, and the cost is typically dependent on the complexity of the treatment and which of your teeth need it. Our research focused on the price of a single anterior root canal (for any of your front six teeth).
London tops the list of the most expensive places to have a root canal, with treatment costing 39% more than the national average! Digging into that further, the maximum price we came across for an anterior root canal in London was a whopping £900, which is 123% above the national average of £403.
Most expensive places for an anterior root canal:
At the other end of the scale, Scotland and Northern Ireland fared well.
Cheapest places for an anterior root canal:
Far from being a cosmetic exercise, a trip to the hygienist can prevent gum disease and reduce the probability of needing more costly and potentially painful treatments. For this part of our research, we looked at what it typically costs for a 30-minute hygienist appointment.
Making a surprise appearance in the most expensive category is our home-town of Bournemouth in Dorset, where a visit to the hygienist will typically cost £84!
Most expensive places for a 30 minute hygienist appointment:
Once again, Wales and Scotland fared well. However, at least a couple of English cities made the cut, with both Leeds and Birmingham being well priced.
Cheapest places for a 30 minute hygienist appointment:
Sometimes there's no alternative but to remove the tooth, giving you grief, and it's one of the more common procedures people need at the dentist. For this part, we looked at non-surgical tooth removal, so simple and uncomplicated cases. The pricing excludes pre-extraction consultations or X-rays and is for a single tooth.
The most expensive place in the UK to remove a tooth is Carlisle, where this relatively simple procedure will set you back £175! That's 38% above the national average of £120 and a massive 82% more than what you'd pay in the cheapest place in the UK, Glasgow!
As you can see, when it comes to private dentistry, it pays to live anywhere other than England, bar perhaps Newcastle, which is both a great city and a relatively inexpensive place for dental work.
If you want to learn more about other types of private medical treatments in the UK, here are two other recent articles worth a read:
myTribe is a consumer information website specialising in private healthcare and insurance. The site gives anyone looking at private healthcare in the UK the information they need through independent research, guides, and expert reviews.
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.
The primary benefit of going private for your dentistry is that you'll get an appointment and be treated far sooner than via the NHS.
You can either pay directly out of your pocket or opt for a payment plan where the treatment cost is spread throughout the year.
The best bet is to Google dentists close to where you live, look at their reviews and get in touch to arrange an appointment.
Private health insurance will typically cover the cost of major dental surgery, where you would need a hospital bed overnight. Routine dental fees can be included in policies, but it's an additional option you'd need to choose when you take out your policy.