It’s a bit of a surprise that across England, millions of people cannot find an affordable dentist. Although in theory anyone should be able to register with a dentist on the NHS, the waiting lists are often for years, and to have a crown or root canal privately can run into thousands of pounds. Although most dentists offer interest-free loans, these are still unaffordable for many – and many people with poor credit ratings or no high income, would not qualify. And these are your teeth! So not being able to have the work done can result in pain and loss of teeth long-term.
So what’s to do? First of all of course, prevention is better than cure. Cutting back on refined sugar and sodas (diet sodas are even worse due to the acid) is good. Twice-yearly check-ups can help to nip problems in the bud. But again if you can’t afford a dental appointment and hygienist, it becomes very difficult to follow official advice.
First of all, take a look around your area, and see if you can find an affordable dentist. If you need no major work, a couple of yearly check-ups and a professional clean, should be enough to avoid having more expensive treatment. But if you can’t afford this or need extra work, what help is there?
Register for a dentist on the NHS. The waiting lists are long, but the sooner you get on the list, the sooner you can will be able to register. This page lists information on situations like people with special needs. If you cannot find a dentist (does not have to be in your catchment area) that accepts NHS patients, you can call the NHS Customer Contact Centre for help. If still not happy, you can contact the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman.
If you have a dental emergency (severe tooth pain, heavy bleeding or injuries), your local dentist may be able to offer NHS help. If not, visit the A & E Department of your nearest hospital (this costs Band 1 (just over £20) unless you qualify for free treatment.
affordable non-profit dental insurance
Non-profit health insurance companies normally offer better value than conventional companies, and were set up years ago (before the NHS) to provide affordable healthcare, so have better ethics. You obviously don’t get treatment for free. But the premiums are fairly low to cover unseen emergencies, so it’s worth doing to get back a portion of money for check-ups and if you have to pay for expensive treatments later on. These companies are not daft, so don’t expect to buy in for a few months to cover the cost of a root canal, they don’t work like that! Hospital Saturday Fund offers a good deal, including a family plan. Dental trauma is covered under the personal accident plan.
extra help for affordable dental care
- Many people in England are entitled to free dental care. If not, you may be entitled to some discounts via the NHS Low Income Scheme (which covers many other services). You can apply for this if your savings and property (not including where you live) does not exceed the limit (presently £16K to £23K depending on circumstances).
- Community Dental Services is an award-winning employee-owned social enterprise, which provides quality dental services to the NHS. Appointments (including for prisons) are by referral only.
- Dentaid is a charity offering mobile dental units nationwide that visit homeless shelters, soup kitchens, community buildings and ashore for workers returning from sea. It offers free dental screening, advice and treatment for people not registered for NHS dental care.