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Dental charges

New NHS dental charges are still too high.

Although children, pregnant women and people on benefits or very low incomes are exempt from dental charges, at present the fear of big bills for dental care discourages some people from seeking treatment until they have a major problem that they can't ignore.

An overdue shake-up to the system of dental charges will change things by providing clear, easy to understand information about dentistry charges. The new system also has the advantage of making clearer the distinction between NHS and private treatment, so consumers will see more clearly when they are being treated on the NHS.

NHS dental charges from 1 April 2012

Dental charges depend on the treatment you need to keep your mouth, teeth and gums healthy. You will only ever be asked to pay one charge for each complete course of treatment, even if you need to visit your dentist more than once to finish it. If you are referred to another dentist for another, separate course of treatment, you can expect a second charge. Some minor treatments are free.

Band 1 course of treatment – 17.50
This covers an examination, diagnosis (eg X-rays), advice on how to prevent future problems, a scale and polish if needed, and application of fluoride varnish or fissure sealant. If you require urgent care, even if your urgent treatment needs more than one appointment to complete, you will only need to pay one Band 1 charge.

Band 2 course of treatment – 48.00
This covers everything listed in Band 1 above, plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or if your dentist needs to take out one or more of your teeth.

Band 3 course of treatment – 209.00
This covers everything listed in Bands 1 and 2 above, plus crowns, dentures and bridges.

Detailed information about each treatment band can be found in the NHS dental treatments section

Those who are currently exempt from NHS dental charges will also be exempt under the new system.

Your local dental practice or primary care trust will have more information on the new charges.

Dentistry in Scotland

Across Great Britain, more than half (55 per cent) of people who tried to register with an NHS dentist in the last two years said they found it difficult. In Scotland the figure rose to 76 per cent, suggesting that Scots may be finding particular problems in accessing NHS dentistry*.

In February 2005 the Scottish Parliament's Health committee published research into the crisis in NHS dentistry in Scotland. They reported that only 52 per cent of Scots are now registered with an NHS dentist, with a third of dentists in Scotland no longer able or willing to take on children as new NHS patients.

The report also said that it seemed 'most unlikely' that the Executive would be able to deliver the new free dental health checks which have been promised.

In March 2005 the Scottish Executive announced its new Action Plan for Improving NHS Dentistry, with 150 million of new investment over the next three years. The plan provides for 200 extra new dentists by 2008, reform of the fees structure to encourage dentists to remain in the NHS, the largest children's tooth brushing scheme in Europe and a reform of patient charges.

The Executive have promised to simplify the charges in Scotland but are not there YET!
On 22 February 2006 they reiterated the registration system and charges:

General dental practitioners are independent contractors who are free to choose whether to join a NHS Board's dental list and whether to provide NHS dental treatment to each individual patient.

They are also at liberty to withdraw from a dental list, i.e. stop providing NHS dental treatment altogether, or withdraw from individual arrangements with patients provided they give three months notice of their intention to do so.

Currently, a patient must attend their NHS dentist at least once in a 15 month period before their registration lapses - but from April 2006 this period will be extended to 36 months.

Charges for treatment in the NHS

Some examples :

  • NHS dental patients pay 80 per cent of the total cost of the treatment up to a maximum which is currently 384 (as at April 1, 2005)

  • Basic examination 5.84 - from April 2006 this will be free

  • Extensive examination 8.72

  • Simple scale and polish 9.20

  • Two small X-rays and one small filling from 10.40

  • One large filling from 16.04

  • A gold or precious metal crown from 92.28

  • A full set of plastic dentures from 126.48

  • An upper or lower metal denture from 111.44

Please note: the total cost of NHS treatment may be different from these examples because of the number, or complexity of treatment involved.


Private dentistry

 There is currently a huge disparity in cost between dental practices and prices are seldom on display or in any way explained.

The government recommendations, which follow the Office of Fair Trading investigation into the sector, are a step forward. Dentists will have to follow standard commercial practices and clearly display prices for certain types of treatment, enabling patients to compare practices and make an informed choice. The government has acknowledged the need for an easily accessible and effective procedure for dealing with complaints about private dentistry, which should be up and running soon.

In Scotland, private dentistry is to be regulated by the Care Commission, with the intention of jointly regulating all dentistry in Scotland. The Government will discuss action in Wales with the Health Inspectorate Wales and the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services Regulation and Improvement Authority.

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