So you may need to consider travelling some distance to find a dentist and be prepared to wait for some time before being seen.
People with urgent and emergency dental problems are being seen first. Some routine check-ups are being offered but these remain limited.
Why is it so difficult to find a local dentist?
There’s a shortage of NHS dentists and dental nurses in our region and a significant problem in recruiting new dental staff.
Also, because of Covid-19, dentists are seeing fewer patients each day. Dentists are at high risk of getting Coronavirus so practices must carry out strict infection control and extra cleaning.
They are currently seeing around 95% of their normal daily appointments, with priority going to those with urgent and emergency care needs and priority groups such as children.
Although routine check-ups and treatments are starting, there may not be many appointments.
Since April 2021, dentists have been advised to add more NHS appointments and care. However, many are seeing only urgent or emergency cases, and not accepting new NHS patients.
As dental surgeries are independent businesses, they may also take on private patients.
Do you need to be registered with a dental practice?
Dental registers have not been kept since 2006.
While you may sign up for a course of NHS treatment at a dental practice and give your details to their patient database, it does not guarantee you access to NHS dental appointments in the future.
Do you have a dental emergency?
If you have pain, swelling, or bleeding, ask your regular dentist if they can offer an emergency appointment.
If you don’t have a regular dentist, call NHS 111 or visit https://111.nhs.uk/ for help to find an urgent dental centre.
The dentist will triage you, offering advice, antibiotics, or pain relief, and offer a face-to-face appointment if they think it necessary.
How to find an NHS dentist
Before you search, be prepared to:
- Consider travelling some distance to find a dentist
- Wait some time before being seen.
The NHS website’s find a dentist search tool may help. You can find practices by postcode, town or city. But information is not always kept up to date by individual dental practices. So always contact them direct to check.
Search for a dentist on the NHS site here:
The site can tell you:
- Which dental practices are taking on new NHS patients
- How other people have rated the service.
You can also visit the Dental Choices website, which uses the same information but covers a wider geographical area.
Still can’t find a dentist?
If you have contacted several dental surgeries and you still cannot find a dentist accepting NHS patients, call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.
It has it has a duty to provide routine and urgent dental care across the country.
You can leave your feedback or make a complaint to NHS England here:
What we’re doing to help improve things
Problems finding an NHS dentist and getting care is a national problem.
We’ve been highlighting NHS dentistry issues in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough for nearly three years, following our Finding an NHS Dentist report in January 2019.
We are continuing to share your many concerns and frustrations with NHS England and NHS Improvement, which plans and pays for dental services in our area.
We are meeting with them regularly and working with the local General Dental Council to improve dental care provision. But unfortunately, there is no quick or simple fix.
Share your experiences with us
If you have had a good experience, or are not happy with your treatment, we’d like to hear about it. We share your anonymised feedback to help improve services.
If you need further help and advice, get in touch with us – we'd be happy to help.
Call 0330 355 1285
Text 0752 0635 176
Dental care for people with disabilities and additional needs
Children, young people and adults who would not or cannot receive dental care from a general dentist can be seen by Dental Health Care.
This specialised dental service in the community sees people with a physical, sensory, intellectual, mental, medical, emotional or social impairment or disability.
However, to use this service, you must be referred by a general dental practitioner.
Find out more about eligibility and referrals in Cambridgeshire by visiting the Dental Health Care website.
Questions about the service? Call 0300 555 6667 and press option 2.
How much does dental treatment cost?
Even with an NHS dentist, most people will have to pay towards the cost of dental treatment, but some patients can get NHS treatment for free.
You can find out more about costs on the NHS website:
A basic routine examination, which includes diagnosis, advice, a scale and polish if clinically needed and some preventative care, costs £23.80 (as at Nov 2021). However, if you need further dental treatment this will be an extra cost.
Dental practices usually offer both NHS and private dental care. So check whether you are paying for NHS, private treatment, or both, before you begin your treatment.
If you're entitled to free NHS treatment and your treatment is a mix of NHS and private, you will still have to pay for the private treatment.
NHS dentists should always:
- Explain which treatments are available on the NHS
- Explain which treatments are only available privately
- Make sure you know how much your NHS treatment and private treatment will cost.
Find out more about dental charges
Visit the NHS website for information about what you should expect to pay for treatment.
Good to know: Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline
Staffed by dental nurses and trained oral health staff, the helpline offers free, impartial advice on any oral health issue such as treatment procedures, oral hygiene, current legislation and regulations, dental charges, complaints procedures, and referrals to other organisations.
Call: 01788 539780 (local rate call in the UK) 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.
Can you get help towards dental costs?
You might be able to get help to pay NHS charges for dental treatment.
It depends on your age, if you get certain benefits, and if you have a medical condition.
Find out more with these links to the NHS website:
You can also use this online calculator to see if you are eligible for help.
If you don’t qualify for free NHS dental treatment but have a low income, you might be able to get free or low cost treatment through the NHS Low Income scheme.
How to check if your dentist is qualified
A list of all qualified dentists in the UK is available via the register of the General Dental Council (GDC), which is the regulatory body for the profession.
How to complain about your dental treatment
If you want to make a complaint about a dentist or dental practice, it’s best to try to resolve it directly with them first.
You should contact the practice manager and give details of your complaint – which must be made within 12 months of receiving treatment.
If you don’t want to go direct to the dental practice, you can contact NHS England which is responsible for NHS dental services.
Find out more about complaints
Visit our webpage about making a complaint
Read about how to complain about dental treatment on the NHS website