How to get free or cheap dental treatment (2023)

A SHORTAGE of NHS dentists is turning toothache into wallet ache.

Nine out of ten NHS dentists won’t accept new adult patients, meaning that most must pay for pricey private care.


Louise Ansari, who runs British health consumer champion Healthwatch, says the situation is “a national crisis”, with NHS dentistry in need of “rapid and radical reform”.

We explain what’s going on, and how to pay for dental care cheaply.

The cost of tooth pain

Most dentists carry out private and NHS work but will only take on a set number of NHS patients. Once the NHS list is full, they only offer private treatment.

Those under the NHS can pay half as much as private patients for the same procedures.

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A dental examination, X-rays and scale and polish costs £23.80 in England and £14.70 in Wales under the NHS. A similar procedure at a private dentist would cost £50, according to dental services website AP Care.

If a patient also needs a filling, root canal or to have teeth removed, an NHS patient will pay £65.20 in England or £47.20 in Wales, while the equivalent private cost would be between £100 and £200.

Jill Harding, director at dental charity Dentaid, says the charity is receiving increasing calls from toothache sufferers who can’t pay the price.

“People regularly call saying they are indentalpain but can’t find adentistor afford private care,”

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Why dentist books are full

Natalie Quail, a dental consultant for NHS and private dental groups Smileright and Smiletime, says the problem is caused by a funding crisis.

“Funding has been scaled back and back. Dentists want to stay open for NHS patients, but they are being let down by the system themselves. They need more funding from government.”

The Government says that changes made to the contract between dentists and the NHS should increase the amount of NHS funding, but the British Dental Association (BDA), which represents the oral health industry, says that the changes are merely “tweaks”, and the service is “on its last legs”.

“We need honesty, ambition and investment,” says BDA Chair Eddie Crouch.

“There are no new dentists, no new contract and no new money.”

What sufferers can do

Despite the shortages, those needing dental work, or even a regular check-up, should start by trying to find a dentist who will take them on as an NHS patient.

Some areas have more NHS availability than others, so persistence may pay off.

Quail, at Smileright, says that many dentists will prioritise giving NHS places to those who are eligible for free NHS care, so if you fall into these categories, it is particularly important to seek an NHS list.

Free dental treatment is offered to children under the age of 18, pregnant women and those who have a baby under 12 months old. It is also available if you are under 19 and in full-time education, getting Income Support or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance.

Those in receipt of the Guarantee Credit portion of Pension Credit, in possession of an HC2 certificate because of a low income, or an NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate are also eligible for free care.

(Video) How to get dental care without insurance

Karen Coates, Oral Health specialist at charity the Oral Health Foundation, says that NHS charges change every year, and even if you are receiving NHS care you should always ask for a written treatment plan and estimate of charges before agreeing to dental care.

Payment alternatives

For the millions of people unable to access NHS dental care, private care is the only alternative. Private dentists set their own prices, so shop around for one that is affordable but has good reviews locally.

If you are seeking regular dental care and are not in an emergency situation, there are plans available that can spread the cost.

Some people prefer to buy dental insurance or a payment plan, meaning that they pay a fixed monthly cost for dental care to be covered. The cost of this will vary depending on your circumstances and the type of procedure that is covered.


Many dentists offer Denplan or other ‘capitation plans. These are available at a variety of price levels depending on whether they cover emergency work or simply routine check-ups, as well as on the state of your teeth.

An ‘Essentials’ plan with Denplan starts at under £9 a month but only covers routine preventative care, while it can cost over £50 a month for a plan that covers more extensive work.

The cost of these plans varies between dentists, and it is vital you understand what is covered, and what is not, before joining up. These schemes are not available to those with poor teeth.

“You will need to have a clean bill of health for your mouth before you can join most schemes,” says Coates at the Oral Health Foundation.

Dental insurance

An alternative to a capitation plan is dental insurance, which can cover unexpected emergencies as well as routine care. This can be bought either individually or through your employer, and costs will vary depending on your oral health and what is covered.

Insurers such as Boots, BUPA and AXA offer this cover, but before you take it out check whether there is a long wait between signing up and being available to claim and how much the policy will pay out per treatment as this may be capped.

Buying dental insurance through your employer can be cheaper, as the whole family can be covered using a salary sacrifice scheme, where the premium is taken out of your pre-tax income, and you do not pay national insurance on the payment.

“It’s a cost-effective way to buy that insurance but only you can decide if it’s worth it,” says Jonathan Watts-Lay, Director of employee benefits scheme WEALTH at work.

Cash plans

Health cash plans are another way to spread the cost of dental treatment. These plans are like insurance. They are designed for you to claim back some of the costs you have paid for medical and dental treatment either on the NHS or privately.

Most of them have limits on the amount you can claim in any membership year, and some cover other routine healthcare as well as dental work.

Plans are offered by companies including Hive, WHA and Sovereign Healthcare. However, if you do not routinely spend a lot on dental and other care, they may be poor value, while they also have many exclusions.

An everyday cashplan from WHA covering prescription charges, some optical work and routine dental costs £9.62 per adult per month

“We advise you to check how much the refunds and benefits are for your individual plan,” says Coates at Oral Health Foundation.

Pay as you go

For many people, simply paying for the dentistry needed will be the only option. If you cannot afford to pay for it upfront, most dentists will allow you to pay by credit card or may be able to arrange a payment plan.

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Those with a good credit rating could apply for a zero per cent credit card, allowing them to pay the balance upfront and pay it back over time without incurring interest.

Putting money away into a separate savings account to cover annual dental bills could be a cheaper option than paying for a health cashplan or insurance.

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If you are desperate, and cannot afford dental help, the charity Dentaid holds clinics for the most vulnerable people in the country

People queue for hours to receive emergencydentalcare from teams of volunteers. There’s more information on the public access clinics on the Dentaid website.


How can I afford to fix my teeth? ›

State and Local Resources. Your state or local health department may know of programs in your area that offer free or reduced-cost dental care. Call your local or state health department to learn more about their financial assistance programs. Check your local telephone book for the number to call.

How do people afford a lot of dental work? ›

Managing Your Dental Care Expenses
  1. Find a dentist that offers a membership plan for uninsured patients. ...
  2. Familiarize yourself with what your dental insurance covers. ...
  3. Open a Health Savings Account (HSA). ...
  4. Take out a low-interest personal loan. ...
  5. Apply for a CareCredit credit line.
May 31, 2022

Where is the cheapest place to have teeth pulled? ›

Dental School

A reputable dental school may be the cheapest place to get a tooth professionally pulled. Licensed dentists supervise the process. However, if you're having a dental emergency, dental school's aren't suitable for teeth extractions. You'll most likely need an appointment for your treatment.

At what age do you get free dental treatment? ›

You're entitled to free NHS dental treatment if at the start of the treatment you're: under 18. under 19 and in full-time education. pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months.

What is the cheapest way to replace all teeth? ›

The most affordable tooth replacement solution is dentures. This is because they take the least amount of time to create. There is no surgery and no dental crowns to place. Instead, an impression is taken of the mouth along with measurements.

How much would it cost to fix all my teeth? ›

The cost of a full mouth reconstruction varies based on the scope of the procedure. Getting your teeth done may involve dental implants ($2,000-$4,000 per tooth, on average), crowns (averaging $600-$1,000 each), fillings (about $150-$350 per tooth) or TMJ Treatment, which can cost $2,000-$3,000 or more.

What is the lowest paying dentist? ›

Dentists made a median salary of $160,370 in 2021. The best-paid 25% made $208,000 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made $101,570.

Which state has the cheapest dental care? ›

Lowest dental treatment costs: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Highest dental treatment costs: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Can you negotiate dental work? ›

Physicians and dentists (hospitals too) are used to negotiating. You can have the conversation up front, before the medical visit or procedure. Alternatively, if you get the bill and believe the fee was excessive or can't afford it, you can try bargaining it down at that point.

How much does it cost to pull a decayed tooth? ›

How much is a tooth extraction without insurance? A simple extraction without insurance costs between $75 and $250. For a surgical extraction, however, prices can go up to $300 a tooth or more. The price you pay depends on factors like your tooth's condition and the type of extraction and anesthesia you need.

Will an emergency dentist pull a tooth? ›

If you know you need an emergency tooth extraction, call your dentist right away. Sometimes, for whatever reason, they may not be able to see you right away. If you can't find a dentist or one can't see you immediately, don't wait. Go to the emergency room where they can help you.

How much is a broken tooth extraction? ›

The price of a surgical extraction ranges from $200 and $700, with an average cost of $300. However, the extraction of impacted teeth can reach as high as $1,000 ($450 on average). When the tooth is broken below the gum line, you can expect to pay between $200 and $600 – about $350 on average.

What benefits do you have to claim to get free dental treatment? ›

You can get free NHS dental treatment if you or your partner receive:
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit.
  • Universal Credit.
Sep 8, 2022

Can you get free dental treatment if you are over 60? ›

If you're aged 60 and over, you get free: NHS prescriptions. NHS sight tests. NHS dental check-ups in Scotland or Wales.

Can you pay monthly for dental treatment? ›

Yes, normally private dentists offer payment plans to help spread the cost of dental treatment. Also, you can have a set monthly plan that includes all your dental needs for the year. This way you can be budget and feel comfortable to not have to worry about a large dental bill again.

Can I have all my teeth removed and replaced? ›

Sometimes all the teeth need to be removed and replaced. You may therefore need either: complete dentures (a full set) – which replace all your upper or lower teeth, or. partial dentures – which replace just 1 tooth or a few missing teeth.

What is dental flipper? ›

A flipper tooth is a removable retainer that fits along the roof of your mouth (palate) or sits on your lower jaw, and has one or more prosthetic teeth attached to it. When you put it in your mouth, it creates the appearance of a full smile, even if you've lost teeth due to injury, removal, or decay.

What permanent teeth replace all teeth? ›

The permanent central incisors, lateral incisors, canines, and first and second premolars replace the primary dentition. The primary molars are replaced with the permanent premolars, and the permanent molars erupt posterior to those.

How much is a full set of permanent teeth? ›

The average cost for full mouth implants is about $34,000. A top or bottom set of dentures can cost about $3,500 to $30,000. Full mouth dental implants are strong and secure. Unlike traditional dentures, they do not require the use of adhesives.

How much is a full set of crowns? ›

The bottom line

Prices average between $1,000 and $1,500, while topping out around $2,500. Dental insurance should cover the cost if you're getting a crown due to medical necessity. Dental insurance won't cover the cost if you're having it installed for cosmetic purposes.

What is the best way to replace all teeth? ›

If you're missing all your teeth, dental implants are the optimal choice for restoring your mouth to full functionality. Dental implants are the modern standard of care for tooth replacement—no matter if it's one tooth or all your teeth. Without teeth, there are no tooth roots in the jawbone to stimulate bone growth.

Are dentists rich or poor? ›

Other dentists are delighted to be wealthy. "Statistics show that dentists average about $180,000 per year, putting them in the top 5% of earners in America.

What state pays Dentist the most? ›

The three states with the highest-paid dentists are Rhode Island ($258,920), Vermont ($254,190) and Alaska ($242,850). West Virginia is last at $127,950 just ahead of Kentucky ($128,850).
Average Dentist Salary by State.
StateAverage Annual Salary
Rhode Island$258,920
46 more rows
Apr 25, 2022

How much do nurses make an hour? ›

How much do nurses make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average pay for nurses is $77,600 per year or $37.31 per hour.

How to get free veneers? ›

You can only get veneers on the NHS if there is a clinical rather than a cosmetic reason for having them. You will have to check with your dentist to see if you qualify for NHS veneer treatment.

What country does the best dental work? ›

Top 5 Best Countries for Dental Work
  • Turkey. Turkey is consistently ranked top as the best country for dental work. ...
  • India. India competes with Turkey for the best country for dental work title. ...
  • Mexico. An estimated six million people traveled to Mexico for dental care in 2019. ...
  • Thailand. ...
  • Germany.

Why do some dentists make you pay upfront? ›

It requires a lot of skill on the doctor's part and there are extremely high fees for materials and lab work that the doctor has to pay for many months in advance to you having a finished product. That's why asking for payment upfront is not uncommon.

Why do dentists charge different prices? ›

There can be wide variations in prices for the same dental procedures from different providers. Individual dental practices set prices for their offices based on market prices and the costs of doing business. These costs include rent, salaries, insurance, supplies and more.

How do I fight a denied dental claim? ›

A proper appeal involves sending the carrier a written request to reconsider the claim. Additional documentation should be included to give the carrier a clearer picture of why you recommended the treatment and why you feel the claim should be reconsidered.

What happens if decayed tooth is not removed? ›

If it is not removed, it will harden and turn into tartar (calculus). The acids in plaque damage the enamel covering your teeth. It also creates holes in the tooth called cavities. Cavities usually do not hurt, unless they grow very large and affect nerves or cause a tooth fracture.

How do you pull a rotten tooth yourself? ›

Make use of a cold, wet washcloth or medical gauze to grip and remove a loose tooth. If you think the tooth is not loose enough to come out painlessly, slightly wiggle it while holding it with a gauze or wet cloth. This will help the loose tooth come out quickly and stop the bleeding if any.

How many teeth will a dentist pull at once? ›

There is no limit to the number of teeth you can have extracted at once. While having multiple teeth extracted during the same procedure is rare, it is sometimes the only option for patients with severe tooth decay.

Can tooth be removed while infected? ›

The presence of an acute infection characterized by severe percussion pain is not a contraindication for tooth extraction. Infected teeth should be extracted as soon as possible and the procedure should not be postponed by giving antibiotics.

Why can't an infected tooth be pulled? ›

A common belief associated with infected or abscessed teeth is that they cannot be extracted until the infection has subdued. This is not true in a large number of cases where the best option to get rid of the infection is to remove the tooth.

How long does it take a dentist to pull a broken tooth? ›

Tooth extraction can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour to complete. Your dentist or oral surgeon can discuss the procedure and expected time frame with you at your first appointment. Surgical extractions and broken teeth take the longest.

Is it cheaper to pull a tooth or fix it? ›

Fewer costs.

While you may think that pulling a tooth is cheaper than fixing it, the truth is that replacing the tooth costs more time and money. And choosing to not replace it will likely have physical and emotional costs.

Is it OK to pull a broken tooth at home? ›

Again, this is NOT a good idea. Even if you don't get an infection, you could cause a lot more damage than is already there. You might end up crushing the tooth or damaging the surrounding teeth and jawbone. That type of damage will make it a longer, more painful, and more expensive issue to correct.

Who is eligible for HC1 certificate? ›

You apply by completing form HC1 online or by post. You can only apply online if you do not have capital or savings over £6,000. If you live permanently in a care home and the local authority helps with the cost, there is a special short form HC1 (SC).

How do I get a dentist appointment if I am not registered? ›

There is no need to register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP because you are not bound to a catchment area. Simply find a dental surgery that's convenient for you, whether it's near your home or work, and phone them to see if there are any appointments available.

Am I eligible for free NHS treatment? ›

Hospital treatment is free of charge for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK. This does not depend on nationality, payment of UK taxes, National Insurance contributions, being registered with a GP, having an NHS number, or owning property in the UK.

At what age is dental treatment free? ›

You're entitled to free NHS dental treatment if at the start of the treatment you're: under 18. under 19 and in full-time education. pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months.

What age do you stop paying for dental treatment? ›

You do not have to pay for NHS dental treatment if, when your treatment starts, you are: under 18. under 19 and in full-time education. pregnant or you've had a baby in the 12 months before treatment starts.

Can 60 year old get dental implants? ›

Whether 80 or 90 years old, older people can benefit from dental implants and recover with the same predictability as younger ones. Most patients, particularly the elderly, should get dental implants as they are the gold standard for teeth replacement. As a result, there is no such thing as old age for dental implants.

What to do if my teeth are rotting? ›

Seeing a dentist

Visit your dentist regularly, so early tooth decay can be treated as soon as possible and the prevention of decay can begin. Tooth decay is much easier and cheaper to treat in its early stages. Dentists can usually identify tooth decay and further problems with a simple examination or X-ray.

Why is my teeth breaking off? ›

Untreated cavities can cause a tooth to become brittle and break. Old, large amalgam fillings, where the remaining structure of the natural tooth can become brittle over a period of time.

Can I rebuild my teeth? ›

Once tooth enamel is damaged, it cannot be brought back. However, weakened enamel can be restored to some degree by improving its mineral content. Although toothpastes and mouthwashes can never “rebuild” teeth, they can contribute to this remineralization process.


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