UK Dental Treatment: Payment Options

Dental treatment in the UK costs the NHS roughly £2.25 billion every year. The patients’ share of that burden is only £550 million. While the out-of-pocket costs you have to pay for dental treatment can be irritating, bear in mind that the NHS shoulders the majority of the cost.

You have a range of different payment options for dental care, including NHS and private treatment:

  • Pay-as-you-go
  • Dental insurance
  • Private medical insurance
  • ‘Capitation’ schemes
  • Treatment loans
  • Cash plans

A course of NHS dental treatment in England should cost you, the patient, no more than £256.50. The same figure for patients in Wales is £195.00.

If issues arise after your treatment and you need a follow-up visit to your dentist within two months, the dentist will not normally charge you for additional treatment.

Free dental treatment on the NHS is available if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Younger than 18
  • Younger than 19 and enrolled full-time in an education programme
  • Are pregnant or have an infant younger than 12 months
  • Are getting the Pension Credit Guarantee
  • Are getting Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, or an income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Hold an HC2 certificate
  • Hold an NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate

You will have to pay the full cost of dental treatment if none of these criteria applies to you.

If you’re unsure whether or not you fall into any of these groups, make sure you discuss your payment situation with your dentist before starting treatment. If your income is limited, you may also be eligible for a charge reduction.

Before starting dental treatment, ask for a written plan of treatment and a cost estimate.

How Much Does Private Dental Care Cost?

There are no pricing standards for private dental treatment. Costs will differ between different dental practices.

How Do My Payment Options Work?


Whether you are taking treatment through a private clinic or on the NHS, pay-as-you-go simply means paying by the visit or when the course of treatment is completed. Remember to collect receipts for your payments.

Dental insurance

Dental insurance can help pay for either NHS or private treatment. You can take dental insurance on your own initiative, or through your employer. Costs vary based on the level of cover you select when you enrol in a dental insurance scheme.

Most dental insurance covers both routine treatment and emergency care. Many dental insurance plans include a wide range of items, including overseas treatment, hospital cash payments, cover for oral cancer and more.

Consider each of these points when examining a dental insurance scheme:

  • Is there a ‘waiting period’ between enrolment and your first claim? How long do you have to pay into the plan before you can actually use it?
  • Does the cover offered by the plan meet your needs? Is it suited to your preferred type of treatment, NHS or private?
  • Does the policy include an ‘excess’ obliging you to pay some fraction of your claim? For example, are you obliged to pay the first £20?
  • How much coverage in total does the plan offer? Are there special limits for specific forms of treatment?
  • How does the plan treat pre-existing dental problems?

Private medical insurance

Some employers provide private medical insurance for you. You can also secure it on your own. Under most general medical schemes, routine dental treatment, such as teeth crowns in fleet, is not usually covered. Any treatment that needs hospitalisation will be covered, though. Common examples include a broken jaw or wisdom teeth extraction. Review your policy carefully to clarify exactly what forms of dental treatment will or will not be covered.

‘Capitation’ schemes

Capitation schemes spread out the cost of dental treatment by spreading it out into monthly payments taken directly from your account. Such schemes can be run by independent companies or dentists themselves. Costs will vary between different providers, and many factor your overall level of oral health into their pricing. Capitation schemes come in two types, maintenance and comprehensive plans. A maintenance plan, as the name suggests, covers routine preventive care. A maintenance plan would cover a fixed number of examinations every year and include common extra services like x-rays, and scale & polish.

Treatment loans

You may want to secure a loan to pay for particularly expensive dental treatment. A dental treatment loan works like any other loan: you borrow a sum of money sufficient to meet your treatment costs and then repay it in instalments over time, typically with interest added. Many lenders provide specialised loans for high-end dental treatments such as implants or cosmetic dentistry.

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