Accessing Dental Care in the UK

Dental care is considered ‘primary healthcare’. This means anyone in England can register with a dentist as an NHS patient, and receive medically necessary treatment on that basis.  Unlike some healthcare in the UK, dental treatment under the NHS is not free (with some exceptions), but the treatment is heavily subsidised and the cost of treatment is capped at a set price depending on what you need doing. This means you will never pay more than the maximum charge for each round of treatment.

There are details of the three bands on the NHS webpages here to give you an idea of what is covered: What is included in each NHS dental band charge? – NHS (

If you follow the news in the UK you will know there is currently a shortage of dentists accepting NHS There is information on how to find the NHS dental practices close to you here  Register with a dentist ( but please bear in mind they will not always have space to take on new patients, so you need to be prepared to contact a few surgeries to ask about this.

Our advice to international students is to schedule routine dental treatment to coincide with any return trips you have planned to your home country, or to be prepared to pay a private rate for dental care in the UK if you cannot find an NHS dentist.

Most surgeries in the UK offer a mixture of NHS and private dental treatment. After an initial consultation will give you a breakdown of treatment and costs for you to agree to before you commit. If you do manage to register with an NHS dentist, do not be surprised if you are charged NHS rates for a check-up (this comes under band one) but are told you also need to see a hygienist to clean your teeth at a private rate.

Emergency dental treatment is not provided via the Accident and Emergency department at major hospitals, but is dealt with at emergency clinics. The contact number for the clinics for Brighton and Eastbourne are online here Register with a dentist (

Orthodontal treatment is only provided by private dentists, so if you are receiving orthodontal care back home you should discuss with your existing orthodontist how best to manage your treatment while you are in the UK.

If you are pregnant, you will be eligible for free NHS dental care for the duration of your pregnancy plus one year following the birth of your child (you are also entitled to free NHS prescriptions for that period). To arrange this you should speak to your midwife to request a maternity exemption certificate Apply for a maternity exemption certificate – NHSBSA.

There are a few other cases where you might be entitled to help with dental costs under the NHS, including if you are under 19 and in full time education, or assessed as being on a low income: Who is entitled to free NHS dental treatment in England? – NHS ( To apply for this help you need to complete an HC1 form and send it off to the address provided. HC1-April-2016.pdf (

And finally, on a more whimsical note… when children in the UK lose a baby tooth, they leave it under their pillow at night for the tooth fairy to take. She will usually leave a small amount of money or a gift in exchange. This is similar to the tradition of El Raton de Los Dientes in Spanish speaking countries, a little mouse who does the same. Parents will also use the tooth fairy as a warning to small children to clean their teeth properly, as she will not take teeth that have not been well looked after!


Sarah Herbert • February 29, 2024

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