Bitterwallet’s How To… cut dental costs

Bitterwallet - how to cut dental costsNo one likes going to the dentist. The movie Marathon Man captured the experience perfectly when it depicted Dustin Hoffman’s Thomas Levy being tortured by former Nazi dentist, Christian Szell. Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the perpetual lack of NHS dentists coupled with the cost of going private can make it a less-than-appealing prospect. That, and the scraping. And the drilling.

But seriously, you should really go every for a check-up once every six months; it doesn’t have to be monstrously expensive. Really. Here are several way to cut dental costs:

How do I find an NHS dentist?

It’s not easy, but there are still a few NHS spaces out there. Here are a few things you can try, depending on where you live:

• call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
• text the word 'dentist' to NHS GO on 64746 (be careful to send the text from the area you’d like to find a dentist in)
• visit the NHS Choices website
• check with your local Primary Care Trust – they’re committed to finding NHS dentistry for anyone who needs it (you can find your local Trust here, using NHS Choices’ search tool)

• call the NHS helpline on 0800 22 44 88
• visit the NHS 24 website
• check with your Local Health Board (you can find a list of contact details on The Scottish Government website)

• call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
• use the NHS Direct Wales search tool
• check with your local Health Board (you can find a list of contact details on the NHS Direct Wales site)

Northern Ireland
• use Health and Social Care for Northern Ireland’s online search tool
• search for contact details on the HSC site

I can’t find an NHS dentist – what should I do to cut dental costs?

Go private, essentially. The prices are typically around double those of the NHS, but there are a few ways you can keep dental health costs down.

Private Dental Insurance
Cheekily, you can often obtain a private insurance policy without any sort of prerequisite check-up. It’s ideal if you suspect you might need some work done soonish, but be careful – some policies state that you can’t make a claim in the first few months. General treatment, injuries, emergencies and diseases are all covered; getting your teeth capped à la Goldie is not.

A few other things to be wary of; sometimes you have to contribute towards the costs, say 25% up to a maximum of £500 per year. And, like private medical treatment, the cost (and demand) for private dental work increases with age.

Pay up
If you’re lucky enough to have perfect teeth, insurance is probably going to be a waste of money; policies can cost hundreds per year. The price of two bi-annual check-ups, even when done privately, pales in comparison.

Self insure
If you consider yourself a low risk, it might make sense to ‘self insure’ - that’s where you set aside, say, a monthly amount, similar to what you’d pay an insurance company. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that you have to make a ‘claim’, you won’t be caught completely short-handed. On the other hand, if your teeth remain pearly white and trouble free, you’ll end up with a big pile of spare cash; bonus!

Go abroad

Ok, this option might seem a little extreme, and there have been some horror stories, but there are some genuinely competent overseas dentists who charge a fraction of private UK costs. Even factoring in the flights, you’ll still be up a fair few quid. Finding the right foreign dentist is the difficult part.

You know decapitation, right? Well, this is completely unrelated. Capitation is where your private dentist performs an initial check-up and assigns you to one of five categories, from ‘A’ (Amazing) to ‘E’ (Eats too much crap and/or never brushes his/
her teeth). Having been branded accordingly, you then pay a fixed monthly amount. If you suspect you’ll fall into one of the lower categories, it’d probably be cheaper to go for an insurance policy (where, as mentioned before, there’s no initial check-up).

My private dentist messed up my teeth – what can I do?

The Dental Complaints Service was set up in 2006 to help disgruntled patients of private dentists. You can call the DCS on 08456 120540, or fill in the form on their website.


  • Daniel Z.
    Not quite that bad... who are you trying to kid?
  • PaulH
    Nice article but how does this help with my gingivitis?
  • The B.
    One thing I'd add to that is if you can't find an NHS dentist then go to a dental hospital (Kings College in Camberwell is a prime example), the queues are about 2 hours if you go there pre-9am but they'll generally do your teeth there and then and you won't have to cough up (although you'll probably have to deal with some not at all irritating student dentists).
  • The B.
    And the "awaiting moderation" is up again, what have I been pulled on now? "Pre-9am"? "Cough up"? Or perchance "irritating student dentists"?
  • Issac M.
    @ "Private Dental Insurance" See here Pay one months premium then rape the policy for hundreds....
  • hackR
    Try brushing.
  • JGN
    you forgot to mention quit your job.. i get free dental care on the NHS for being unemployed.
  • Willy-wonka
    ... or alternatively, date / marry a dentist or dental nurse. Thats why I have shiney whites..!
  • Bronx D.
    Going towards the dentist and feeling comfortable and confident is rare. People are often anxiouos and worried when it comes to visiting the dentist. If you knew a lot more about your dentist, and you trusted him, you would feel a great deal significantly going to the dentist. That's why I believe that no one really should ever go to a dentist that they barely know. Usually do some study on your dentist so that you might be prepared for whatever may come. It would make your life significantly easier should you knew your dentist was bad before you really went in for an appointment.

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