Looking after your teeth and gums is important at any age. Even if you feel there’s nothing wrong, it’s still important to visit your dentist regularly. If you’re on certain benefits you can receive free NHS treatment or you might be eligible for help through the NHS Low Income Scheme.

How can I keep my teeth and gums healthy?

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, it’s important to brush and floss your teeth and to see a dentist regularly.

Some people find toothbrushing and flossing difficult because of arthritis or weakness in their arms or hands. There are tools to help with this, including special handgrips, electric toothbrushes or toothbrushes with a small head.

How often should I have a check-up?

Based on the health of your teeth and gums, your dentist will decide how often you should visit them for a check-up. The recommendation is likely to be between 12 and 24 months, but it can be as often as every 3 months.

Your dentist will help make sure there are no problems developing and tell you how to prevent future problems, such as gum disease.

How can I find an NHS dentist?

Dentists don’t have specific catchment areas, which means you can find a dentist in an area that suits you, whether it’s your home, work or another convenient location.

You might have to contact a few different practices to find one with availability, as some dentists have a waiting list for NHS appointments and some might not be able to take on new NHS patients at all. 

Find a dentist on the NHS website

Your area might also have a dental access centre, which can treat people who don’t have a regular NHS dentist. Contact your local NHS Area Team if you aren’t sure what’s available in your area.

Find your local Area Team on the NHS website

There are also private dentists and those who offer a mixture of NHS and private appointments. A dentist who has all their NHS slots filled may have private appointments available, but these will be charged differently to NHS appointments. Always check the cost and payment options with your dentist before agreeing to treatment.

If you have a medical condition or disability that makes it difficult to use a local dental surgery, there may be a community dental service. These services have easy access to the surgery, or other adaptations suited for people with physical disabilities, and some offer home visits. They also have dentists who have received training in treating patients with special requirements. Your dentist or GP may need to refer you to a local service. 

If you haven’t been able to find a dental practice currently accepting new NHS patients, contact NHS England on 0300 311 2233 or your local Healthwatch. 

Find your local Healthwatch on the Healthwatch website

How can I access treatment in an emergency or out of normal working hours?

If you have a regular dental practice, speak to them for advice or call NHS 111 for details of the nearest available help.

How much does NHS dental treatment cost?

The cost depends on the type of dental treatment – more complicated procedures are more expensive. Always check what the exact charges are for a full course of treatment before you have anything done.

Dental treatment is free if you or your partner receive any of these benefits:

Let the receptionist know that you receive a benefit when you make an appointment. You may be asked to show proof.

Dental treatment is also free if:

  • you are staying in an NHS hospital and the treatment is by a hospital dentist, or
  • if you are an NHS hospital dental service outpatient.

You might be eligible for free or discounted treatment if you qualify for the NHS Low Income Scheme.

Find out more about the Low Income Scheme on the NHS website

For those who need to pay for dental treatment, there are 3 charging bands.

Type of dental treatmentDescriptionCost you pay (2023)
Emergency and Band 1Covers emergency care such as for pain relief or a temporary filling. Also covers standard examinations, X-rays, and treatment to prevent problems such as fluoride or a sealant.£25.80
Band 2Covers emergency and band 1, as well as any further treatment such as fillings, root canals or tooth extractions.£70.70
Band 3Covers emergency, bands 1 and 2, as well as more complicated procedures such as crowns, dentures, and bridges.£306.80

Find out more about the NHS payment bands on the NHS website

How much does private dental treatment cost?

Dentists offering private treatment will have their own charges. Always check with them beforehand what the appointment and treatments will cost.

Remember that many dentists might offer both NHS and private treatment. But they have to be clear with you about the full costs for NHS and any private treatment you agree to.

How can I access dental care in a care home?

If you currently live in a care home, or are moving to one, you can ask the manager how residents can access both regular and emergency NHS dental services.

Care homes should identify your dental care needs, including what help you might need in the future, and make a record of them in your care plan to be followed by care home staff.

Find out more about what dental care standards you should expect from your care home on the NICE website