The search for reliable and efficient dentists who can provide for the dental treatments can be challenging – especially if the differences between NHS (National Health Service) and private dentistry dentists leave you feeling confused. It is important to know how dental treatments on the NHS vary from those done with private dentistry, so you can make the best decision regarding your dental health care needs.
The Focus of NHS Dentistry
The National Health Service – or the NHS – is a publicly-funded health care system in the UK. This means that UK residents are entitled to dental treatments that are either free of charge, or have very minimal costs, under the NHS. Aside from dental care, the NHS also offers long-term health care, ophthalmology and in-patient care to UK residents.
The focus of NHS dentistry is clinical; this means that NHS dentistry includes all of the dental treatments necessary to achieve and maintain good oral/dental health care and if necessary, to restore the function of dental health in the most cost-effective way possible. The clinical focus of NHS dentistry means dental treatments that are aesthetic in nature (those that are primarily concerned with improving one’s appearance, such as cosmetic dentistry procedures) are not included in the list of treatments that can be done on the NHS, where prices are set for defined dental treatments.
Private dentistry also focuses on the clinical aspect of dental health care, along with the aesthetic needs of patients. The prevention and treatment of dental problems go hand in hand with the goal of improving how a patient’s smile appears in private dentistry. Private dentistry prices are not set or fixed (unlike those under the NHS), so the cost of dental treatments under private dentistry dentists can vary a lot, depending on the location of the practice, the technology to be used, the complexity of the treatments, and the individual case’s needs.
NHS or Private Dentistry Dentists?
Both NHS and private dentistry aim to provide patients with good overall dental health, so it is not in the best interests of the public to generalize that dental treatments under the NHS (just because they have a fixed/lower cost) will have inferior quality as compared to private dentistry treatments. Dentists in the UK can either have:
A practice that offers only private dentistry treatments
A practice that offers treatments only on the NHS; or
A practice that offers dental treatments under both the NHS and private dentistry
When choosing which dental practice to go to
you will have to consider your needs and expectations regarding the dental treatments to be done. The scenarios below will help in clarifying the best plan of action you should take given a specific case – and can help you decide on going for the treatment on the NHS, or through private dentistry:
a) If you need to have a dental treatment of a clinical nature…
(such as dental examinations, scaling or polishing), you can have this done on the NHS where fixed prices for each treatment will be followed. You can always go for private dentistry if this is your preference, but it would not hurt to check out the price under the NHS to compare which option (NHS or private?) will be most beneficial for you (and your budget).
b) If you are mainly interested to improve the overall appearance of your smile…
and would like to have some cosmetic dentistry treatments done – and there are no other dental problems that will be resolved by these cosmetic dentistry procedures – private dentistry is your best option. The NHS covers those treatments (with prices that are fixed for each treatment) that are considered to fall under cosmetic dentistry (such as dental bridges, and orthodontic appliances) ONLY IF they are needed to treat an underlying or existing dental problem.
c) It is best to look for a dentist who offers both NHS and private dentistry treatments if…
you need to address dental concerns of a clinical nature, but would also like to improve your smile afterwards with a cosmetic dentistry procedure. This option will give you the most convenience, since you do not have to go to two (or more) different dentists for the dental treatments you want and need.