How to access a dentist

Here we explore the causes of the issue and share recommendations on how to access a dentist.

Accessing NHS dental care is a nationwide problem impacting all families. However, the mobility of RAF families causes an additional disadvantage, as waiting times can often exceed the duration of a post.

The recent FAMCAS 2021 survey identified that nearly 50% of Armed Forces families experienced difficulties accessing NHS dental care in 2021.

Why is there an issue accessing a dentist?

The introduction of the National NHS General Dental Services dental contract in 2006 means dentists are not directly employed by the NHS. Dentists are now private businesses who can choose to take a ‘portion’ of patients under the NHS (or not).  If they take NHS patients, when their ‘portion’ is full they subsequently shut their lists and don’t take on any new patients.

The impact of this change was amplified further by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a backlog of patients which could not be seen during the pandemic and now practices are open there are increased hygiene implications which means capacity has dropped.

There has been a lot of coverage in the national press about the struggle for anyone to get a dentist appointment. For more information see this BBC news article Dentists drop NHS work.

What action are the Families Federation taking?

The Families Federations have raised the 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. Whilst we do not expect a quick fix, raising people’s awareness that there is a continual access issue is an important step. Various actions are being discussed within these institutions in order to help resolve NHS dental access problems.

What can I do to access a dentist?

Access Recommendations- England

In England the recommendation is to use find an NHS dentist. Note, this list may not always hold accurate information, and therefore it is worth phoning practices to see if they are accepting new patients.

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 more affordable than many other private dentists – Check-ups are free for children under 3, £10 for children 3-17yrs and £35 for adults.

If you continue to have an issue with finding an NHS dentist for your family or yourself please contact NHS England’s Customer Care Centre: Telephone: 0300 311 22 33 or email.

Access Recommendations- Devolved Administrations

  • NHS Scotland – Anyone struggling to access dentistry provision across Grampian can call the NHS Grampian Dental Info and Advice Line. This manned service provides updated information on local dentists who are accepting new patients and can arrange urgent care as required. Call 0345 45 65 990.
  • Wales NHS
  • NI Direct

Register with a dentist further afield…

If you register with a dentist in a location away from home you can swap dentists once there is availability locally. Some military families, have registered as a NHS patient with a dentist close to where their extended family live.  They then tie in a visit to the dentist with visiting their family. We are fully aware this is far from ideal, however this could provide an interim solution to an ongoing problem.

The NHS is now trailing a location-specific NHS health single point of contact (SPOC). This will provide knowledge of health care provisions in particular areas. Having contact with the local dental commissioners in England will help individuals’ access NHS dental care, as well as build evidence of ‘hot-spot’ problem areas.

If you are struggling to access a dentist and require further help in doing so report your issue to us.

Back to news