Access to NHS Dentists

Currently, under the provision of the National NHS General Dental Services, NHS patients are not registered with a dentist in the same way they are registered with a GP for primary medical services.

A dentist is only obliged to provide ongoing treatment for a period of 2 months at a time, from the start of a course of treatment. And, unless you are exempt from NHS dental charges, you will need to pay for your care.

Who is entitled to free NHS dental treatment in England? (NHS)

Being a NHS registered dental patient does not guarantee access to treatment

There is no contractual requirement for dentists to maintain a registered NHS patient list that guarantees access to NHS services just because they have previously received treatment. This means that you can remain with the dental practice you were previously receiving treatment from (if feasible) as long as you have regular treatment, or you could consider accessing NHS dental care further away from home if travel time/cost allows.

Note: clinical guidelines currently state that routine check-ups for adults should now take place every 12-24 months depending on oral health.

Access to NHS dental care for children of Dual Serving parents

We are aware that some NHS Dentists have declined to register the children of dual serving parents unless a parent registers as a private patient within the practice.  Clearly, dental care is provided for serving personnel by DDS and some of our families have struggled to access NHS care for their children as a result. The NHS Dental contract states that dental practices with an NHS contract are not allowed to insist that a parent registers as a private patient before they will accept a child as an NHS patient.

We recommend that dual serving parents check if their practice holds an NHS contract and if they do they are within their rights to challenge the decision, making it clear that they are an Armed Forces family where the parents receive oral care within defence.

 The NHS Dental contract can be found here>

 The relevant section which stipulates this policy is at paragraph 28:  

 28.[Subject to clauses 26 and 28A,] the Contractor shall only refuse to provide services under this Contract to a person if it has reasonable grounds for doing so which do not relate to

  • 28.1. a person’s age, sex (reassigned or otherwise), religion or belief, sexual orientation, race, cultural and linguistic background, any disability they may have, or medical or dental condition; or
  • 28.2. a person’s decision or intended decision to accept private services in respect of himself or a family member.

Can the Armed Forces Covenant help me access dental care?

The Armed Forces Covenant does not apply in quite the same way to routine dentistry as it does to other NHS services such as orthodontics. This is because dentists are essentially private practices with a contract to provide NHS care and treatment. They are therefore not governed in the same way.

Better access to NHS dental services under new reforms

In July 22 NHS England announced their plans for reform of dental services to allow better access to NHS dental services. These reforms should increase capacity and reduce the waiting time for an NHS dentist.

Better access to NHS dental services under new reforms (NHS)

Dental care options

Affordable private dental care

Many people rule out private dental care as they perceive it to be more expensive. This is not always the case and it is an option worth exploring. Dentists that belong to the {my}dentist group offer private patients a package called ‘my options’.  You register as a private patient but the prices are much more affordable than many other private dentists.

There are other organisations such as Denplan, BUPA and Simplyhealth who offer monthly care plans for as little as £9.55 pcm, these typically include check ups, hygienist treatment and a discount on more comprehensive treatment.

NHS Dental Care

Note: These lists may not always hold accurate information, it is worth phoning local practices to see if they are accepting new patients.

Urgent dental care

If you or your family require urgent dental help, to please use the NHS 111 online service, or call 111 if you are unable to get help online and for life-threatening emergencies, call 999 for an ambulance.

Finding a NHS dentists in the devolved administrations

Unable to access an NHS dentist?

If you are struggling to access a dentist it may be worth searching ‘Dental Access Centre + your specific location’ to find your local Dental Access Centre. They provide NHS dental treatment to residents who do not have a regular dentist and are in need of urgent dental care.

Persistent issue finding a NHS dentist?

If you continue to have an issue finding an NHS dentist for your family or yourself, please contact the NHS England National Customer Contact Centre. They will be able to undertake additional fact-finding on individual cases, clarify route options, if appropriate signpost to other agencies and/or pass onto the respective regional Dental Commissioning Team as required. Dental treatment is managed regionally across England by dedicated Dental Commissioners and this is for all population cohorts including the Armed Forces community.

The website also provides details on providing feedback and making a complaint about an NHS service should you wish to.

Telephone: 0300 311 22 33
Email[email protected]

Treatment for patients with special needs

Patients with special needs such as mental or physical health problems or disabilities which prevent them visiting the dental practice may be referred to a special dentist service usually known as Community Dental Services:

Dental treatment for people with special Needs (NHS)

The Oral Health Foundation can also offer advice about dental care for people with special needs:

Information for carers about dental care for people with special needs (

Armed Forces NHS orthodontic case transfer

The NHS have provided some guidance for when patients request an orthodontic case transfer either within the UK or from abroad:

NHS Orthodontic Transfer Information for Armed Forces and their Families (

What we are doing to help

The Families Federations have raised the dental issue with the MOD, UK departments of health, NHS England and Improvement and The British Dental Association. A recent paper was presented to the MOD/UK Departments of Health Partnership board highlighting the ongoing issues. We continue to work in behalf of our Service personnel and families to improve service across the UK.

Need help accessing dental care?

Tell us the problems you are experiencing accessing dental treatment and we will support you in addressing them.