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What’s the difference between NHS and private dentistry?

Treatment options

Wondering whether to become an NHS or private patient? Find out the differences between NHS and private dental care, including the treatments available, length of appointments and who is eligible.

Length of appointments

Regular NHS dental check-ups can take on average 10-15 minutes, but it could take longer if there’s an issue requiring treatment. Other dental services, such as hygiene appointments and treatments, take different amounts of time.

You’ll usually get more time in the chair with a private dental check-up. At Bupa Dental Care, these often take 20 to 30 minutes, but this can differ depending on your individual needs.

Please note: this photo was taken before the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing rules.

Eligibility

NHS dental care is available to everyone in the UK, for treatments clinically necessary for your oral health. And if you fall into certain groups, it’s available free of charge. These include patients under 18, patients under 19 and still in full-time education and those who fall under NHS exempt criteria. This includes pregnant women and new mothers who gave birth in the last 12 months.

Anyone can have private dental care. There’s no contract or membership required and you don’t need insurance. Just ask your local dentist about becoming a private patient.

Cost of services

If you aren’t eligible for free NHS dental care, the cost is subsidised by the government. In England and Wales treatments fall into a three-tier pricing system and in Scotland, you’ll need to pay 80% for your treatment’s cost. See more information on NHS dental costs by region here.

Private care is generally more expensive than NHS care, but you can access a wider range of services. Prices can vary between practices, speak to your practice for more information.

Availability

Dental practices won’t always have capacity to see new NHS patients. You may need to join a waiting list or be seen privately. Each practice that offers NHS appointments has a contract with the NHS to provide an agreed amount of NHS dental treatment. When there is no NHS availability you will often find private appointments available, because dentists can choose to offer their services privately. Often private appointments offer greater flexibility, including some evenings and weekends.

Seeing the same dentist

Typically, NHS patients won’t always see the same dentist. Although, some dentists work exclusively with NHS patients, meaning you might see the same clinician each time. If you’d rather be seen by the same dentist, then private dental care may be suitable.

As a private patient, you can choose the private dentist you would like to visit and see the same dentist each time.

Can you mix NHS and private dental treatment?

Yes, if you are an NHS patient, and would like a treatment that’s not available on the NHS, you can opt to pay privately for the procedure. Speak to your dentist to find out more.

Contact your local practice

If you’re interested in becoming a private patient, or would like to talk about your options, contact your local practice who will be happy to help.

Find your local practice

Bupa Dental Care is a trading name of Oasis Healthcare Limited. Registered in England and Wales number: 03257078. Registered office: Bupa Dental Care Vantage Office Park, Old Gloucester Road, Hambrook, Bristol, United Kingdom BS16 1GW.

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