Which dental procedures are covered by UK's NHS?

January 30, 2016

Which dental procedures are covered by UK's NHS?
Which dental procedures are covered by UK's NHS?

It can be confusing looking at dental treatment plans in the United Kingdom. Many patients have questions about which services are private and which ones are covered by NHS. Basically, the NHS provides the dental services you need to keep your mouth clinically healthy and pain free. Here is some further information to help you better understand dental treatments covered by the NHS and what expenses to expect.


What is the NHS?

The National Healthcare Service (NHS) in England is a publicly funded healthcare system, one of the oldest in the world. It is overseen by the Department of Health and mostly funded through general taxation. The NHS makes most healthcare services, such as emergency treatment and treatment of infectious diseases, free at the point of use. Thus, everyone registered within the system (both UK citizens and legal immigrants in possession of an NHS number), has access to critical and non-critical medical care with no out-of-pocket expenses. This also includes primary care, long-term care, in-patient care, and ophthalmology.


Core Principles of NHS

According to the main NHS website, the central ideal is that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. Three other core principles include that it:

  1. Meet the needs of everyone
  2. Be free at point of delivery
  3. Be based clinical need, instead of ability to pay


Now, some treatments and services do require a financial contribution. Dentistry is one of the few branches of healthcare where patients must pay a contribution towards the total cost of care. But often this cost is lower than services from a private practice or dental care provider. Also, while private healthcare does continue alongside the NHS services, it is only used by about 8% of the population and is largely paid for by private insurance.

What Dental Treatments are Covered by NHS?

With dental services, the amount a patient spends depends on the type of clinical treatment he or she requires. Often the NHS provides treatment to keep the mouth, teeth, and gums healthy and pain-free. Dentists base decisions about appropriate care on assessment and clinical judgement. Basically an NHS dentist offers the most clinically appropriate treatment and makes it clear which services are offered under the NHS and which are only offered on a private basis. That way you can make an informed decision when it comes to dental care. The cost of dental care with NHS comes in three charge bands:


Band 1 at £18.80

This cost usually covers the examination, x-rays, diagnosis, and consultation on how to prevent future problems. It also covers a clinically necessary scale and polish. Payment even covers preventative treatments like a sealant and fluoride varnish. Emergency treatment, though not technically under this band, also costs £18.80. Other treatments under this band often include:

  1. Dental moulds
  2. Colored photographs
  3. Marginal correction of fillings
  4. Pathological exams
  5. Adjustments for false teeth or orthodontics
  6. Treating sensitivity


Why is NHS dentistry bad for your oral health?


Band 2 at £51.30

This cost covers everything under the first band, as well as any further restorative treatment such as fillings or root canal therapy. It also covers a basic tooth and wisdom tooth removal, but not more complicated services that fall under the third band. Other treatments under this cost bracket include:

  1. Non-surgical periodontal treatment (scaling and root planning)
  2. Surgical periodontal treatment (gingivectomy)
  3. Dental pulp removal (pulpotomy)
  4. Removal of the tip of a tooth root (apicectomy)
  5. Tooth transplant
  6. Soft tissue surgery
  7. Cyst removal
  8. Frenectomy, frenoplasty, or frenotomy
  9. Bite-raising appliances (mouth guards or treatments for TMJ disorders)


Band 3 at £222.50

This cost covers everything listed in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex treatments like crowns and bridges. It also sometimes covers veneers and orthodontics if there is a clinical need for them, not just cosmetic. Other treatments covered under this band include:

  1. Inlays
  2. Pinlays
  3. Onlays
  4. Dentures
  5. Other customized appliances (not including sports guards)


Also, patients should only ever pay once over the course of treatment and not be charged for individual items, even if it takes multiple appointments. A course of treatment is complete when the dentist achieves good oral health.


NHS Patients Do Not Have to Pay for Treatment If/When

  1. They are under 18 or under 19 and in full-time education
  2. They are pregnant or have had a baby within the 12 months prior to the start of treatment
  3. They are staying in an NHS hospital and receive care from the hospital dentist
  4. They are an NHS Hospital Dental Service outpatient


NHS patients also do not have to pay:

  1. For denture repairs
  2. The removal of stitches
  3. If the dentist must stop blood loss
  4. If the dentist only needs to write a prescription


What Dental Treatments are Not Covered by NHS?

The NHS does not provide for treatments that simply improve the cosmetics of teeth. Dental implants are one particular service not often covered by NHS and are usually only available on a private basis. Dental implants might be covered for NHS patients whose face and teeth have sustained damage caused by cancer or an accident, or who cannot wear dentures. Other cosmetic treatments not often covered by NHS include teeth whitening and dental veneers. These are only available privately unless there is a clinical cause or need for them.


Some patients choose to receive a mixture of both private and NHS dental treatments. Your dentist should provide a breakdown of expenses and help make costs and benefits clear for you, prior to the start of treatment. That way you can prepare for treatment and know up front which treatments are covered by NHS, which aren’t, and how much the completed plan will cost. 


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