Surrey Heartlands NHS Dental Services Frequently Asked Questions June 2023

Q1. Why can it be difficult to get NHS dental services?

NHS dentistry is funded to see about half of the population regularly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS and private dental practices had to close for about three months due to national guidance.

Once re-opened dental practices were required to follow strict safety procedures to help prevent COVID-19 infections, impacting on the number of patients that could be seen. This reduction in patient numbers has led to a significant backlog of patients waiting to be seen.

Dental practices are working through their backlogs and access to NHS dentistry has significantly improved since the start of the year. Changes are being introduced nationally and locally to support people most in need.

Q2. How do I find a local dentist who will treat me on the NHS?

You can enter your postcode on the NHS website to find dental practices near you. This will advise if dentists are accepting NHS patients in your area.

You may have to call several dental practices in your area to see if they are accepting NHS patients.

More information on what happens when you visit an NHS dentist can be found at NHS: What happens when you visit an NHS dentist.

Q3. I went to a local dentist as an NHS patient a few years ago but when I tried to get an appointment recently, they couldn’t see me. Why?

Unlike GP surgeries, dental practices do not have registered patients, which means that you can attend a dental practice anywhere, but it also means that if they don’t have the capacity, they may not be able to offer you an appointment. If you have not had regular check-ups or have missed appointments/treatment and have not attended for several years, you may find it more difficult to get an NHS appointment. NHS dental practices have limited spaces, and many have waiting lists.

Many practices are working through the backlog of patients.

Private dentists can offer care locally but even if you qualify for an exception from dental charges, they will require you to play the full cost of your dental treatment. Some private dental practices offer payment plans.

Q4. What should I do if I cannot find a dentist in the local area able to take on a new NHS patient?

If after contacting several dental practices in your local area you still can’t find a dentist accepting NHS patients, you should call NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

The Contact Centre will help you find the nearest dentist accepting NHS patients, but you may be asked to travel some distance to get an appointment.

You can also search for an NHS dentist near you on this website.

NHS: Find a Dentist

Q5. What should do if I don’t have a regular dentist and I need urgent treatment?

If you need urgent treatment such as for severe pain, swelling of your mouth, throat, neck or eye, heavy bleeding, contact NHS 111 (available online or via the telephone) which can advise you of local dental practices where you may be able to get urgent care. There are also practices which offer urgent treatment for patients unable to get care at a local practice, but you may have to travel further. There is more information at NHS: How can I access an NHS dentist in an emergency or out of hours?

Do not contact your GP as they cannot offer urgent or emergency dental care.

Only visit A&E in serious circumstances, such as:

  • Significant bleeding that won’t stop
  • Severe pain that isn’t helped by painkillers
  • Trauma to your face, mouth, or teeth from an accident
  • Severe or increasing swelling in your mouth, throat or neck, making it difficult to
    breath, swallow or speak.
  • In a life-threatening emergency, you should always call 999.

Q6. I have had urgent out of hours care and been told to go to my dentist to have the treatment finished, I can’t find a local NHS dentist – what should I do?

If after contacting several practices in your local area you can’t find an NHS dentist to finish your treatment, you should call NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.

Q7. My child needs urgent dental treatment, and I can’t find an NHS dentist to see them – what can I do?

If after contacting several practices in your local area you can’t find an NHS dentist to treat your child, you should call NHS England’s Customer Centre on 0300 311 2233

Q8. How much should I expect to pay for NHS dental treatment?

This depends on the treatment provided. You can find information about NHS dental services charges here NHS: How much will I pay for NHS dental treatment?

You may also be able to get free NHS dental treatment in some circumstances NHS: Who is entitled to free NHS dental treatment in England?.

Q9. What can community dental services offer?

Community dental services are available in a variety of places including hospitals, specialist health centres and mobile clinics, they also provide home visits for patients that are confirmed as being housebound by their GP.

Some hospitals or health centres also help people who need specialist dental care and may be able to offer dental treatment under sedation or general anaesthetic.

You can find out more about community dental services and the people they support here NHS: Dental treatment for people with special needs.

To find out more about the community dental care available in your area, please see the links below:

Published on 14 July 2023