What Is the Difference Between an NHS Dentist and a Private Dentist?

Maintaining our oral health is essential for our overall well-being. Visiting the dentist regularly for check-ups and treatments is necessary to keep our teeth and gums healthy. Many people are slightly confused about the differences between private and NHS dental treatment and practices. There is a common assumption that private dentists are more expensive but this is not always the case. Typically the service and treatment you receive is superior and also unrestricted. This article aims to help you understand the different aspects of each option in order to make informed decisions about your dental care. 


  • Treatment that is functional and aesthetic is available privately. The NHS only provides treatment that is functional but not with the best appearance. 
  • Private appointments can occur on any day the practice is open including Saturdays, Sundays and after 5 pm 
  • Dentists have the freedom to use higher-standard materials and provide higher-quality treatment 
  • No funding restrictions 
  • Private laboratories are used which usually have more experienced technicians and more flexibility 
  • Appointments times are longer 
  • Additional treatments such as implants and teeth whitening are available (not an NHS option)
  • Quick and easy access to specialist treatment 
  • Orthodontic treatment available for all ages including Invisalign and fixed braces
  • Treatment options are discussed alongside costs before any treatment begins


  • The government has implemented some restrictions on dental treatment
  • Treatment has to be functional not cosmetic 
  • Patients are charged fixed prices (Band 1-3)
  • Cost-effective treatment to align with a fixed NHS budget
  • Government guidelines must be followed when recalling patients (some patients may not be seen as often as they want to be)
  • NHS teeth cleaning/scaling is used to ensure gum health and can only be done when clinically necessary (e.g. when gum disease is present) and not for cosmetic reasons 
  • There may be limited appointment availability outside of work and school hours 
  • Specialist dentists may not be available on the NHS or have long waiting lists
  • NHS contracts are usually restricted to working Monday – Friday and 9 am – 5pm
  • Hygienists are usually not funded by the NHS

Your dental care should always be a collaboration of decisions made by you and your dentist. Whether you opt for private dentistry, for functional and cosmetic work or NHS dentistry, which focuses on function, the choice should always be yours. Personalised care plans should be used to help you see what treatment is recommended and the associated costs. We advise discussing your preferences and any concerns with your dentist, many dentists can do both private and NHS treatment. Remember, your dental care should also be suited to your wants and needs, your dentist is there to help you achieve optimal oral health and smile you are proud of.