Frightened of NHS dentists? At £40 a filling, you will be

Subsidised treatment is hard to find and prices are rising. Sam Dunn looks at ways to grin and bear the pain of going private

Your trip to the dentist is about to get more painful. A shake-up intended to reverse the decaying number of NHS dentists is likely to lead to a doubling of charges for basic treatment such as check-ups, to £12, and fillings, to £40.

Your trip to the dentist is about to get more painful. A shake-up intended to reverse the decaying number of NHS dentists is likely to lead to a doubling of charges for basic treatment such as check-ups, to £12, and fillings, to £40.

Over the next 12 months, a pricing overhaul will do away with 400 separate treatment charges and replace them with tiered fees. Dentists will be paid per patient instead of per treatment, putting a price cap on the costlier procedures.

However, uncertainty about what the changes will mean in the long term, and the fear that they will lead to lower income, could cause many of the remaining NHS dentists to go private. Still more people would then have to pay for treatment.

The changes are part of a desperate Government attempt to make dental treatment more widely available on the NHS. In 1994, 25 million people in Britain were registered with an NHS dentist; today, that figure has fallen to barely 18 million - less than half the adult population.

Searching for an NHS dentist in your area is often a futile exercise, with the shortage of practices leading to long waiting lists. Some 800 new dentists graduate each year - not enough, admits the British Dental Associ- ation. There are plans to establish another 170 places at dental schools from next October. In the meantime, dentists are being recruited from India and Poland.

Against this background, consumers are left gnashing their teeth. "People avoid going to the dentist because of the cost, and also the difficulty of getting on to an NHS list," says John Cox of the consumer body Which?.

"When the pain is then really bad [and requires more treatment than if they had seen a dentist sooner], they have to go private, where it's expensive."

New guidelines recently proposed an end to the six-month dental check-up in favour of a "needs-must" approach. But for those on low incomes with poor teeth and who can't find an NHS dentist, the cost of any kind of private treatment could be prohibitive. Even a simple check-up, descale and polish can come to as much as £50.

One way to cut down on dental bills is to take out a "capitation" repayment plan. For a fixed monthly sum, your teeth will be covered for any routine and emergency dental procedures - regardless of how much treatment you have. The cost will depend on the state of your teeth. When you sign up, a dentist gives your mouth an oral MOT; you will then be charged according to a price-banding system.

Denplan operates the UK's biggest such scheme, with more than 6,000 member dentists offering their services to around 1.3 million patients. It has five price bands, charging an average of £15 a month. This covers check-ups, X-rays and restorative work, including root canal treatment. Emergency cover is also included.

But Denplan's customers will benefit most if they require major restorative treatment: charges for a new bridge, for example, can start at around £600. However, in such cases, you'll still be expected to pay the laboratory fee, which can be as much as £80. Watch out, too, for exclusions; cosmetic dentistry, such as teeth whitening, isn't covered.

Schemes like Denplan help dentists to spot problems early on and take preventive action. If you move to a different area, you will have to undergo another oral health assessment with your new Denplan dentist. Your monthly charge may also increase if dental costs are higher than in your previous area - for example, in a large city.

An alternative to capitation schemes is dental insurance. You can use this to help pay for NHS treatment - if you're lucky and can find it - as well as private dental care, and premiums won't depend on the condition of your teeth. You pay the bill up front and claim the charges back on your policy.

There are limits, though, to the level of reimbursement you can expect to receive. Specialist insurer WPA Providental charges a flat rate of £11.84 a month for 18- to 49-year-olds and provides up to 75 per cent of the cost of routine treatment to a maximum of £250 a year.

You qualify for up to £1,000 a year for emergency treatment, and as much as £20,000 to cover serious dental injury, for example a blow to the face.

Remember that you'll still have to pay for a quarter of the cost of any treatment, up to a maximum of £500 per claim. You'll also have to wait for three months after taking out a policy before you can claim on it. (In the case of accidents, this is reduced to two weeks.)

Cash plans from providers such as healthcare mutual HSA can also help cover treatment costs; these start from as little as £1.35 a week.

If you can't find an NHS dentist and have to go private - even if you are taking out insurance to help pay for this - always ask to see price lists and compare charges between practices before signing up.


You can ask to be registered at any NHS dental practice - but expect long waiting lists.

Alternatively, you can search for an NHS dentist on the internet. Try or

Even if you do get treated on the NHS, you'll still pay 80 per cent of the cost of any procedure, though treatment is free for the under-16s, full-time students under 19, mums-to-be and mothers with children under one year.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

    Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

    £70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

    Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

    Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

    £13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific